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Developing a Role Identity as an Ambassador through Hands-On Activities

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Conference

2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition

Location

Columbus, Ohio

Publication Date

June 24, 2017

Start Date

June 24, 2017

End Date

June 28, 2017

Conference Session

Improving Presentation Skills Through Summer Research and Ambassador Programs

Tagged Division

Liberal Education/Engineering & Society

Tagged Topic

Diversity

Page Count

14

Permanent URL

https://peer.asee.org/28132

Download Count

133

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Paper Authors

biography

Joanna K. Garner Old Dominion University

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Dr. Garner is a Research Associate Professor in The Center for Educational Partnerships at Old Dominion University, VA.

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Michael Alley Pennsylvania State University, University Park

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Michael Alley is an associate professor of engineering communication at Pennsylvania State University. He is the author of The Craft of Scientific Presentations (Springer-Verlag, 2013) and is serving as the Coordinator of the Engineering Ambassador Network.

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biography

Christine Haas Engineering Ambassadors Network

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Christine Haas brings over ten years of experience working in marketing and communications with a focus on the science and engineering fields. She’s held positions as the director of marketing for Drexel’s College of Engineering and director of operations for Worcester Polytechnic Institute - Engineering.

Now, as Principal of Christine Haas Consulting, LLC, Christine travels around the world teaching courses to scientists and engineers on presentations and technical writing. She has taught clients across government, industry and higher education, including Texas Instruments, Brookhaven National Laboratory, European Southern Observatory (Chile), Simula Research Laboratory (Norway) and the University of Illinois-Urbana Champaign.

Christine is also the director of the Engineering Ambassadors Network, a start-up organization at 25 plus universities worldwide that teaches presentation skills to undergraduate engineering students, particularly women and underrepresented groups in engineering. These Engineering Ambassadors develop valuable leadership and communication skills, which they apply through engineering outreach to middle and high school students.

Christine received her MBA in marketing and international business from Drexel University and her BA in English and film from Dickinson College.

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Suzanne Sontgerath Worcester Polytechnic Institute

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Sontgerath holds a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Worcester Polytechnic Institute and an M.Ed. from Worcester State University. She is currently the Director of Pre-collegiate Outreach Programs at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. Sontgerath supervises K-12 STEM outreach programs at WPI including Camp Reach and several other summer and academic year programs for students and parents.

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Avi Kaplan Temple University

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Avi Kaplan is an Associate Professor of Educational Psychology at Temple University in Philadelphia, PA, USA. Dr. Kaplan’s research interests focus on student and teacher motivation, self-regulation, and identity development, with a particular interest in the role of the environment in these processes. His recent research involves the application of the Complex Dynamic Systems approach to identity and motivation, and the use of collaborative design-based interventions to promote educators’ and students’ motivation and identity exploration around the curriculum.

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Abstract

In response to the need for a diverse, highly skilled STEM workforce that can work collaboratively and communicate effectively, colleges of engineering have developed diversity-focused recruitment, retention, and outreach efforts. Many programs have also begun to emphasize technical communication skills. A national organization that integrates these priorities is the Engineering Ambassadors Network (EAN), which trains undergraduates to raise awareness of what engineers do and how they contribute to society. Typical ambassador activities include the delivery of a presentation and a hands-on activity to middle or high school students. Currently, there are an estimated 634 EAs in the United States. For many, the ambassador role begins during a large, multi-institution workshop. Post-event surveys reveal high levels of ability, confidence, and preparedness to create and deliver outreach presentations. Post-workshop interviews reveal that the training offers a platform for role identity development. The ambassador role aligns career-related motivations, resonance with messages contained in the National Academy of Engineering’s Changing the Conversation report, beliefs about the mission of the EAN, and plans for how to fulfill the Network’s mission. After the initial training, students’ role identities reflect an integration of their undergraduate engineering student role with the new role of ambassador, with the intermediary role of an effective presenter serving as a bridge. The workshop targets the need to improve students’ communication proficiency, and focuses sparingly on the hands-on activity component of ambassadorship. Consequently, little is known about whether learning to create and facilitate a classroom activity impacts what ambassadorship means to students, and how these perceptions are integrated into existing ambassadorial or professional future role components of self-perceptions, goals, beliefs and action possibilities. The present study focused on two questions. 1. For students in an ambassador role during an outreach visit, what is the purpose of the hands-on activity? 2. How do ambassadors approach the development of a hands-on activity? The context for this case study with embedded units is a five-day intensive training at a small, engineering-focused university. Training involved 30 students, and a purposefully diverse sample of 8 students was obtained. All students had recently completed the national-level workshop. Post-training interviews were conducted with 4 junior and 4 senior ambassadors. The protocol elicited a narrative about the student’s experiences at both the national and local training events. Local training required students to develop both a presentation and a hands-on activity. Two researchers coded the interview transcripts. An additional researcher acted as an auditor. We present findings thematically to discern several outcomes: Hands-on activities are conceptualized as serving a clear instructional and motivational purpose for students. Ambassadors understood that the intention was to reinforce presentation concepts and inspire students to be interested in engineering. Ambassadors engaged in iterative design processes while creating activities, and sought the assistance of a supportive facilitator when necessary. Findings show that the hands-on activities are, for ambassadors, a key component of outreach visits and that the local training environment supports the development of these activities. Activities are generally aligned with ambassadors' interests and prior knowledge, as well as the presentations that they are also developing in the training context. Additional theoretical and practical implications are discussed.

Garner, J. K., & Alley, M., & Haas, C., & Sontgerath, S., & Kaplan, A. (2017, June), Developing a Role Identity as an Ambassador through Hands-On Activities Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. https://peer.asee.org/28132

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