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Creating An Industrial Work Group Atmosphere In Technology Graduate Programs: An Unexpected Impact On Minority Success In Graduate School

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2006 Annual Conference & Exposition


Chicago, Illinois

Publication Date

June 18, 2006

Start Date

June 18, 2006

End Date

June 21, 2006



Conference Session

Emerging Trends in Engineering Education Poster Session

Page Count


Page Numbers

11.367.1 - 11.367.8



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Paper Authors


Ken Vickers University of Arkansas

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Ken Vickers is a Research Professor in Physics at the University of Arkansas, and has served as Director of the interdisciplinary Microelectronics-Photonics Graduate Program since April 1998. He worked for Texas Instruments from 1977 through March 1998 in integrated circuit fabrication engineering, and has authored thirty issued patents. He received BS and MS degrees in Physics from the University of Arkansas in 1976 and 1978 respectively.

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Ron Foster University of Arkansas

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Ron Foster is a Research Associate Professor at the University of Arkansas, and has served as Director of the Innovation Incubator (a NSF Partnership for Innovation sponsored activity) at the University since 2001. He worked for both Texas Instruments and Honeywell, and was engineering manager of both design and manufacturing of sensors. He received a BA Physics in 1977 and MS Physics in 1980 from the University of Arkansas.

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Greg Salamo University of Arkansas

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Greg Salamo is a Distinguished Professor and holder of the Basore Endowed Chair in Physics at the University of Arkansas. Dr. Salamo received a BS degree in Physics from Brooklyn College in 1966, an MS degree in Solid State from Purdue University in 1968, and his Ph.D. in Optics from CUNY/Bell Labs in 1973. After a Post-Doc position at the University of Rochester, he joined the faculty of the University of Arkansas in 1975. He is a member of several professional societies, and is a Fellow of the Optical Society of America.

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

Creating an Industrial Work Group Atmosphere in Technology Graduate Programs: An Unexpected Impact on Minority Success in Graduate School Abstract

The interdisciplinary graduate program in Microelectronics-Photonics (microEP) was created at the University of Arkansas in the fall of 1998 to merge traditional graduate research and educational excellence with specific training in operational effectiveness methods, intra and entrepreneurial skills, and teaming and group dynamics practice. The stated goal of this approach was to create a graduate program that emulates the industrial work group environment, with the group objective being that every graduate student achieves the highest academic training of which he or she is capable.

In the seven years since the microEP grad program was started, this educational experiment in creating a graduate program centered in a natural work group culture has proven beneficial to its students – and has even been largely adopted by the UA Physics graduate program1. What was not expected is that this natural work group approach also created a graduate community that has acted to bridge minority students from the heavily supportive MSI atmosphere to the generally impersonal atmosphere found in white majority research intensive grad programs.

Including the fall 2005 entering microEP Cohort 8 students, one hundred and three students are currently enrolled or graduated. This includes seventeen minority students, a percentage half again as high as the national average of graduating minority PhD students2 and much higher than the current enrollment in the traditional UA science and engineering graduate programs. Two African-American men have completed their PhD microEP degrees, with one joining Virginia Commonwealth University as a tenure track faculty member, and the second currently enrolled in the University of Alabama Birmingham Medical School.

In this paper the authors will first discuss methods that have been used to locate students in communities underrepresented in science and engineering that would be well served by the microEP research and educational training. The authors will then discuss their observations on how the natural work group approach to graduate education has unintentionally addressed some of the factors affecting minority student retention3.

Philosophy of microEP Graduate Program

The microEP graduate program at the University of Arkansas was started in 1998 with the intent of creating an educational environment for its students that was as much like an industrial professional technologist work group as possible. The technical focus of this work group would be in the areas of advanced micro/nanoscale materials and devices in the broad area of electronics and photonics. The method was to be the agency that would allow merging of already existing academic efforts in this field with operational methods and training in common usage in industry.

Vickers, K., & Foster, R., & Salamo, G. (2006, June), Creating An Industrial Work Group Atmosphere In Technology Graduate Programs: An Unexpected Impact On Minority Success In Graduate School Paper presented at 2006 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, Illinois. 10.18260/1-2--939

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