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Board 233: CAREER: Supporting Mental Health and Wellness in Engineering Culture to Promote Equitable Change

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Conference

2023 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition

Location

Baltimore , Maryland

Publication Date

June 25, 2023

Start Date

June 25, 2023

End Date

June 28, 2023

Conference Session

NSF Grantees Poster Session

Tagged Topic

NSF Grantees Poster Session

Page Count

5

DOI

10.18260/1-2--42674

Permanent URL

https://peer.asee.org/42674

Download Count

141

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Paper Authors

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Karin Jensen University of Michigan Orcid 16x16 orcid.org/0000-0001-9456-5042

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Karin Jensen, Ph.D. (she/her) is an assistant professor in biomedical engineering and engineering education research at the University of Michigan. Her research interests include student mental health and wellness, engineering student career pathways, and engagement of engineering faculty in engineering education research.

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Jeanne Sanders University of Nevada, Reno Orcid 16x16 orcid.org/0000-0002-8865-5444

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Jeanne Sanders (she/her/hers) is a researcher in Engineering Education. She graduated with her Ph.D from North Carolina State University in the Fall of 2020.

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Eileen Johnson University of Michigan Orcid 16x16 orcid.org/0000-0001-8324-0568

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Eileen Johnson received her BS and MS in bioengineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She previously worked in tissue engineering and genetic engineering throughout her education. She is currently pursuing her PhD in biomedical engineering at the University of Michigan. After teaching an online laboratory class, she became interested in engineering education research. Her research interests now are focused on engineering student mental health and wellness.

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Joseph Francis Mirabelli University of Illinois, Urbana - Champaign

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Joseph Mirabelli is an Educational Psychology graduate student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with a focus in Engineering Education. His interests are centered around mentorship, mental health, and retention in STEM students and faculty

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Sara Rose Vohra University of Illinois, Urbana - Champaign

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Sara Vohra is an undergraduate studying Bioengineering in The Grainger College of Engineering and minoring in Chemistry.

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Abstract

Mental health and wellness in engineering education is an under-studied area of critical importance. Environments that promote mental health and wellness likely have long-term, positive, and impactful benefits. However, the culture of engineering higher education has been described as a culture of stress where engineering students experience higher stress, lower mental health, and lower retention rates when compared to students in other disciplines [1-3]. This culture of stress is detrimental to mental health and wellbeing and is thus a critical space for change efforts. To address this challenge, this study asks: “How can we dismantle a culture of high stress in engineering and instead foster a culture that promotes wellbeing?”

To answer this question, the presented project uses a mixed-methods approach to examine the time-evolution of engineering stress culture, educators' perceptions of the normalization of this stress culture, and resources that support a culture of well-being. Prior work includes the development of a stress culture measure [4] and student interview analysis [5]. The project has recently focused on 1) a longitudinal survey of student experiences with the engineering stress culture that includes confirmatory validation of a survey instrument developed as part of this project around engineering stress culture; 2) faculty, staff, and student interviews to elucidate survey findings; and 3) creating a virtual community to support practitioners, collaboratively solve problems, and envision new futures around dismantling this culture of high stress.

This paper will discuss a more in-depth overview of the current state of the project as well as preliminary data from the longitudinal survey and faculty interviews. This paper will also detail the development and growth experienced by the mental health and wellness virtual community. The virtual community includes over 80 members from the wider engineering community with tenure-track and non-tenure-track faculty positions, graduate and undergraduate students, postdoctoral scholars, staff, and engineering industry personnel. Such a community promises the facilitation of communication between participants with differing levels of influence and access to resources, which is a key component of change efforts. This virtual community meets monthly and is supplemented by an asynchronous messaging platform and website to disseminate relevant information. The monthly meetings have been led by a variety of interested community members, with continuing access for new members to join.

Overall, this project seeks to create lasting change by contributing to the engineering education community’s understanding of possible ways of dismantling the engineering stress culture and fostering a culture that promotes wellbeing.

References [1] Godfrey, E., & Parker, L. (2010). Mapping the cultural landscape in engineering education. Journal of Engineering Education, 99(1), 5–22. [2] Authors, 2021. [3] Perkins, H., Gesun, J., Scheidt, M., Major, J., Chen, J., Berger, E., & Godwin, A. (2021). Holistic wellbeing and belonging: attempting to untangle stress and wellness in their impact on sense of community in engineering. International Journal of Community Well-Being, 4(4), 549-580. [4] Authors, 2022. [5] Authors, 2021.

Jensen, K., & Sanders, J., & Johnson, E., & Mirabelli, J. F., & Vohra, S. R. (2023, June), Board 233: CAREER: Supporting Mental Health and Wellness in Engineering Culture to Promote Equitable Change Paper presented at 2023 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Baltimore , Maryland. 10.18260/1-2--42674

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