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Changes In The Nature Of Faculty Work In Engineering During The First Three Years

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2008 Annual Conference & Exposition


Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Publication Date

June 22, 2008

Start Date

June 22, 2008

End Date

June 25, 2008



Conference Session

Survivor: The First Few Years

Tagged Division

New Engineering Educators

Page Count


Page Numbers

13.287.1 - 13.287.10

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Paper Authors


Elizabeth Creamer Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

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Elizabeth Creamer is Professor, Educational Research and Evaluation at Virginia Tech. She is the PI or CO-PI of two grants related to undergraduate women in engineering and other STEM fields and Director of Research and Assessment for the AdvanceVT project.

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Tonya Saddler Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

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Tonya Saddler is a doctoral candidate in the Higher Education Program at Virginia Tech and a member of the VTADVANCE team.

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Margaret Layne Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

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Peggy Layne is Director of the VTADVANCE Program and a doctoral student in the Science Technology Studies program at Virginia Tech.

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Changes in the Nature of Faculty Work in Engineering during the First Three Years


The literature frames the socialization process of new faculty members as if they face an identical set of challenges in each of their pre-tenure years, regardless of discipline. This research uses a longitudinal research design and interview data to determine if there are differences by year in the experiences of a cohort pre-tenure faculty in engineering at a research-intensive university. Two major shifts in priorities occurred within the three years: a shift from an emphasis on securing external funding to managing a research team and multiple sources of funding; and secondly, a shift from concern about the ambiguity of tenure expectations to growing confidence about expectations attributed largely to clear feedback about performance. Research findings presented here suggest that new faculty will benefit from professional development opportunities that address such issues as conflict, interpersonal communication, and essentials of supervision in a team and laboratory setting.

Introduction and Review of Related Literature

Social and organizational features of faculty work, often referred to in more generic way as climate, are recognized as one of the strongest influences on academic scientists’ and engineers’ productivity1 and satisfaction2. Perceptions of climate reflect policies, practices, and interactions at both a local level, as within a lab or department, and at more global level of the college or university. The Collaborative on Academic Careers in Higher Education (COACHE), an emerging voice from Harvard University about faculty careers, measures climate to include (a) personal and professional interactions with colleagues, (b) opportunities for collaboration, (c) sense of fit, (d) intellectual vitality of the senior faculty, (e) fairness of evaluation, (f) equitable treatment, and (g) support for professional development. Perceptions of climate at the more local level of the department are more strongly related to productivity and satisfaction than perceptions about similar issues at the level of the college or university3.

The centrality of teamwork in a lab setting is one element of faculty work that distinguishes academics in engineering and the natural and physical sciences from most of their colleagues in the social sciences, professional fields such as business and education, and the humanities. Teamwork is widely recognized to be the central feature of modern scientific research4. Teamwork is distinguished from collaboration because it involves cooperation between scientists, students, technicians, and others of equal and unequal status5. It is heavily dependent on external funding6. As compared to “big science” such as occurs at Lawrence Livermore or Sandia Labs, “small science” is a single investigator working in a designated laboratory space and developing an independent research agenda7. The lab setting serves as a prime venue for education, recruitment, and retention of both graduate and undergraduate students to STEM fields8. It provides the principal context for the socialization of graduate students9, but also presents challenges to new faculty members who have little prior experience in managing teams or supervising students within the context of multiple deadlines for deliverables from funding agencies.

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2008 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015