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Evaluating the Transition to the Professoriate for International Graduate Students: Case Examples from an Iraqi-U.S. Program

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2022 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Minneapolis, MN

Publication Date

August 23, 2022

Start Date

June 26, 2022

End Date

June 29, 2022

Conference Session

International Division Technical Session 6: Monitoring, Evaluating and Research

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Paper Authors


Charles Pierce University of South Carolina

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Dr. Charles E. Pierce is an Associate Professor and Director for Diversity and Inclusion in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of South Carolina. He is also the ASEE Campus Representative and a Senior Faculty Associate in the Center for Integrative and Experiential Learning (CIEL). His current educational interests include designing and implementing problem-based learning strategies for within-the-classroom and beyond-the-classroom experiences, creating and evaluating inclusive learning environments, and facilitating critical student reflection in engineering education.

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Muwafaq Awad

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Inthuorn Sasanakul

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Financial support for international students to pursue graduate studies in the U.S. can be challenging to receive and maintain. One mechanism for some international students is to seek sponsorships from their native countries to complete a doctoral degree at a designated U.S. institution. In exchange the students often commit to return to their home institution as faculty members. This arrangement can be beneficial to the students and their research advisors. Yet there have been few studies on the doctoral experiences of international sponsored students and their subsequent transition into the professoriate.

One such program was established between Iraq and an R1 flagship institution in the southeastern U.S. The Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of South Carolina was one of several engineering programs that supported Iraqi students as part of that agreement. 15 Iraqi students entered and completed a doctoral degree in the department over a seven-year period. This paper documents the experiences of two former students who earned their doctoral degrees in geotechnical engineering and are now early-career faculty in Iraq.

Findings are derived from a questionnaire developed for the specific purpose of exploring international sponsored student experiences. Questions and prompts were informed by a literature review of student-to-faculty transition studies and the New Faculty Transition in Learning Organization (NFTLO) Questionnaire. Two metrics for interpreting their responses are introduced. One is the New Faculty Success Score (NFSS) that measures the degree of successful or unsuccessful transition. The second metric is associated with the perception of institutional differences between the doctoral institution (from a student perspective) and the current institution (from a faculty perspective). The findings show that the two former students have differing self-evaluations of their degree of transitional success even though their perceptions of institutional differences are equivalent. Yet how and where those differences arise are varied, which implies a potential correlation between the two metrics. A resulting set of potential advantages and disadvantages of international sponsored studies are proposed using the personal experiences from the two case examples.

Pierce, C., & Awad, M., & Sasanakul, I. (2022, August), Evaluating the Transition to the Professoriate for International Graduate Students: Case Examples from an Iraqi-U.S. Program Paper presented at 2022 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Minneapolis, MN.

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