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Career Arcs that Blend Industry, Government and Military Service with Faculty Experiences to Increase Diversity in the Engineering Professoriate

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2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Columbus, Ohio

Publication Date

June 24, 2017

Start Date

June 24, 2017

End Date

June 28, 2017

Conference Session

Action on Diversity - Engineering Workforce & Faculty Training

Tagged Topics

Diversity and ASEE Diversity Committee

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Paper Authors


Rebecca A Bates Minnesota State University, Mankato

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Rebecca A. Bates received the Ph.D. degree in electrical engineering from the University of Washington. She also received the M.T.S. degree from Harvard Divinity School. She is currently Professor in the Department of Integrated Engineering program at Minnesota State University, Mankato, home of the Iron Range and Twin Cities Engineering programs.

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Erick C Jones University of Texas, Arlington

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Dr. Erick C. Jones is a Professor in Industrial and Manufacturing Systems and focuses on Internet of things (IoT) RFID technologies, Lean Six Sigma Engineering Economics, and Engineering Management research. As a former Alfred P. Sloan Minority PhD Scholar and Center director he has addressed diversity challenges such as implicit bias and unconscious assumptions throughout his career.

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Alan A. Arnold AAAS Science and Technology Fellow at the National Science Foundation

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Dr. Alan A. Arnold is a American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Science and Technology Policy Fellow placed at the National Science Foundation. He received a Ph.D. degree in cancer biology from Wayne State University's School of Medicine. As a fellow, he is developing topics on broadening participation at the intersection between science and policy.

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Engineering faculty careers have a traditional linear trajectory from graduate programs to tenure-track positions, from assistant professor to associate and then full professor, and then a happy retirement as emeritus faculty. However, this traditional pathway has resulted in a national engineering faculty that is overrepresented by white men, compared to both national demographics and the pool of engineers with PhDs. Additionally, this model of a faculty career has not shifted, even though career paths across the nation see multiple transitions and have very low expectations of retiring from a company after 30 years. This mismatch means that academia is not able to adapt to shifting demographics, expectations of Millennials, and desires for varied experiences, whether with industry or work-life balance and family. Creating and institutionalizing multiple entry points to the arc of an academic life, as well as exit and return options, will allow for both recruitment and retention of faculty that better represent the face of the nation.

There are multiple pathways to an engineering faculty career, but these do not necessarily result in equal status for faculty. The increasing number of non-tenure track options (i.e., adjuncts, instructors and fixed-term faculty) add complexity to the landscape, potentially providing alternative options, but ones that may be unequal for underrepresented groups. The flexibility of academic jobs should include protection for freedom of speech and leaves of absences for professional development, experiences and/or expertise that can be brought back to the classroom, the institutions, the community, and to the next generation of students. Tenure and sabbatical options, which provide for security in seeking varied experiences that help develop a rich and diverse professoriate, are rarely available to people in adjunct or fixed-term positions, yet the number of these positions is growing in all academic fields.

Non-linear journeys through a faculty career could start before an appointment with time as a post-doctoral fellow or time in industry. Options such as federal internships can provide a needed break, access to important equipment and contacts, and support agency short term staffing needs. Considering multiple entry points to faculty positions, e.g., at junior, mid or senior appointments, would allow academically qualified candidates to consider switching from an industry career to academia, making a career arc that encourages industry or small business experience before addressing reflection and dissemination of knowledge through teaching. Hiring from industry rather than academia may require institutional responses related to tenure and promotion expectations. Valuing industry experience at a variety of levels and supporting the development of teaching skills will address the need for a more diverse faculty.

While some programs consider industry experience in the hiring process, encouraging this more widely can provide real world stories and connections for students who are more likely to enter industry than to enter academia. Diverse work experiences, as well as other forms of diversity, all contribute to positive experiences for engineering students.

A faculty career model that includes a variety of entry and exit-return options, particularly one that maintains academic freedom while supporting intellectual creativity and work-life balance is one that will be more inclusive, adaptable and welcoming for women and underrepresented minorities. This paper will present background information to show the current national context as well as theory examining adult development that will be related to faculty career expectations. The paper will develop an argument for options to expand faculty career pathways. We will demonstrate ways that this expansion could diversify the engineering professoriate.

Bates, R. A., & Jones, E. C., & Arnold, A. A. (2017, June), Career Arcs that Blend Industry, Government and Military Service with Faculty Experiences to Increase Diversity in the Engineering Professoriate Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2--28011

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