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Engineering Resilience through Research Mentorship: Manufacturing Pathways to Careers

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2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


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Publication Date

June 22, 2020

Start Date

June 22, 2020

End Date

June 26, 2021

Conference Session

Student Experiences with Undergraduate Research

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Educational Research and Methods

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Paper Authors


Lara Cristina Perez-Felkner Florida State University Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Lara Perez-Felkner is an Associate Professor of Higher Education and Sociology in the Higher Education Program within the College of Education at Florida State University. She is affiliated with FSU's Center for Postsecondary Success, Temple University's Center for College, Community, and Justice, and the international VHTO Network Gender + STEM. Her research uses developmental and sociological perspectives to examine how young people’s social contexts influence their college and career outcomes. She focuses on the mechanisms that shape entry into and persistence in institutions and fields in which they have traditionally been underrepresented. In particular, she investigates racial-ethnic, gender, and socioeconomic disparities in post-secondary educational attainment and entry to scientific career fields. Dr. Perez-Felkner’s work has been published in journals including New Directions in Institutional Research, Developmental Psychology, Frontiers in Psychology, Journal of Higher Education, Journal of Latinos and Education, and Teachers’ College Record, as well in several edited volumes and news outlets. Her work has been supported by external agencies, including the National Science Foundation. She leads multiple evaluation partnerships with NSF engineering grantees, is a member of STEM Central, and has participated in AAC&U PKAL inititatives around STEM equity.

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Chelsea D. Shore Florida State University

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Chelsea is a second year doctoral student in Higher Education, Student Affairs under the mentorship of Dr. Perez-Felkner. Her research explores the development of college students from a social ecological perspective.

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Tarik J. Dickens Florida A&M University

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Dr. Tarik J. Dickens is an Associate Professor at Florida A&M University, Department Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering at the FAMU-FSU College of Engineering. Professor Dickens’ research is in the area of manufacturing science and multifunctional composite processing. He is a member of the High-Performance Materials Institute (HPMI), a dedicated institute for the advancement and scale-up of nanomanufacturing and Co-director of the NSF CREST center for complex materials design. The Dickens’ research group investigates underlying process-property-performance relationships that impact the life-cycle for advanced composite materials. The primary research focus lies in integrative and assisted processing developments for advanced composites through hybrid processing and multifunctional composite fabrication through multimaterial processing and digital manufacturing. Applications are directed at energy/stress conversion for integrated structural health monitoring, field-assisted direct writing, storage/dissipation for resilient structuring, and electrochemical conversion for energy harvesting. He has over 30+ publications (journal papers and conference proceedings), and 5 US patent applications (awarded and pending) with 5 disclosures (pending) in the areas of advanced multifunctional composites, sensory-scaled composite manufacturing (3D sensor integration), ubiquitous real-time structural health monitoring, and additive manufacturing.

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Mingchia Dawn Yang Florida A&M University

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Dr. Dawn Yang has extensive and broad experience in Process and Material Engineering. She built her career in material research, manufacturing methods, and process development.

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PURPOSE AND FRAMING Despite projected growth in engineering jobs, corresponding degrees earned among Black women have remained strikingly and persistently low, even as compared to their male peers. Although most research on women in engineering focuses on predominantly white institutions, recent research suggests women of color might have more success in Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) [7, 8]. This manuscript develops an evidence base for engineering resilience among students of color pursuing undergraduate research in materials, undergoing intensive mentorship and training in how to become material scientists. Such training may be especially important for students of color – and women of color specifically – because the difficulties and frustrations inherent in scientific research may be especially fraught for already marginalized students who have had to work so hard to belong and be seen as legitimate scientists and engineers [9]. Importantly, undergraduate research has been found to be a high-impact practice, as is the mentoring often associated with it [17], predicting student success [18, 19]. Indeed, students with mentors have higher GPAs, greater retention rates, and more courses completed on time. This paper builds on a mixed methods evaluation study of a series of funded undergraduate research cohorts, with a focus on a comprehensive ten-week research and training intervention in the summer of 2019.

METHODOLOGY We examine whether resilience could be engineered through structured and intentional mentored research. Using a mixed methods evaluation strategy to assess inputs, environment, and outcomes [21], qualitative inquiry drew on 1) an affirmation writing exercise and 2) individual interviews with undergraduate mentees. Quantitatively, we draw on the results of pre- and post-test surveys at the start and end of the summer, measuring learning, science identity, and intent to persist in STEM fields. This study builds on an evaluation of an NSF-funded interventions in "Southeastern HBCU". Original data collection and analysis employed of pre- and post-surveys assessing alternately engineering learning and engineering identity and career commitment. In between the pre- and post-surveys, the researchers observed students’ participation in intensive materials research mentored by more senior scholars of color, led an affirmation training and writing intervention, and conducted and coded individual interviews with all participants.

RESULTS During the June 2019 engi-resilience workshop, the following reflections from students indicate alignment between their identity and their engineering interest. After a brief presentation and discussion, the 11 summer REU students were asked to “write a paragraph about how you are uniquely well-suited for success in materials science. It can be about your skills, interest, experience, perspective, values, or anything else.” The following responses were culled to share a range of their perspectives. Given research evidence on the efficacy of such affirmation exercises, a pre-test was issued before this intervention and a post-test was issued at the end of the summer, showing gains in most areas of learning as well as in their engineering identity, particularly in how it aligned with their identities as students of color, women, and/or in fitting with their interests and formative experiences. Notably, a consistent theme was resilience. These were not students who had consistent and early exposure to engineering knowledge and training, but they saw their “unyielding drive,” ability to push themselves “outside of their comfort zone… into engineering,” and – when present – family and community supports as key factors to their short-term and intended longer-term engineering success.

STUDY SIGNIFICANCE We measure resilience through individual interviews with students halfway through a summer intervention using mentorship and undergraduate research – two high-impact practices – and through the measured gains in their assessments of their ability in topical areas of manufacturing science. Our research findings suggest the value of validating, affirming, and fostering the skill development and confidence of HBCU students pursuing materials science and engineering, manufacturing a resilient and robust engineering workforce.

Perez-Felkner, L. C., & Shore, C. D., & Dickens, T. J., & Yang, M. D. (2020, June), Engineering Resilience through Research Mentorship: Manufacturing Pathways to Careers Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--34557

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: © 2020 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