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Exploring the Intersectionality of Engineering Postdoctoral Scholars in the LEGACY Scholars Program

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2024 Collaborative Network for Engineering & Computing Diversity (CoNECD)


Arlington, Virginia

Publication Date

February 25, 2024

Start Date

February 25, 2024

End Date

February 27, 2024

Conference Session

Track 3: Technical Session 9: Exploring the Intersectionality of Engineering Postdoctoral Scholars in the LEGACY Scholars Program

Tagged Topics

Diversity and CoNECD Paper Sessions

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Paper Authors


Jameka Wiggins The Ohio State University

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Jameka Wiggins is a graduate student at The Ohio State University, pursuing a Ph.D. in Engineering Education with a specialization in Organizational Change in Higher Education and Industry and a Master’s in Engineering Management. As a scholar and advocate, she seeks to amplify the voices of underrepresented groups in engineering by exploring their experiences, encouraging student and faculty engagement through critical questioning, and supporting these groups both personally and professionally.

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Monica Farmer Cox The Ohio State University

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Monica F. Cox, Ph.D., is Professor in the Department of Engineering Education at The Ohio State University.

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Ayanna Howard The Ohio State University

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Dr. Ayanna Howard is the incoming Dean for the College of Engineering at The Ohio State University. Previously, she was the Linda J. and Mark C. Smith Professor in Bioengineering and Chair of the School of Interactive Computing at the Georgia Institute of

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Beenish N/A Saba The Ohio State University

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Martina Leveni The Ohio State University

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Shawanee' Patrick The Ohio State University Orcid 16x16

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(Keywords: Engineering, Professional, Faculty). Studies conducted on engineering postdoctoral scholars have shown that postdocs successfully matriculate to faculty positions when their identities (e.g. gender, class, race, ethnicity) are embraced beyond their Science Technology Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) identities. Recognizing postdocs beyond their professional identities necessitates an exploration of the interplay of their identities and power dynamics at play between their internal (i.e., self-identifying and covert identifiers) and external (i.e., forward facing and/or overt identifiers) identities. Our work explores the intersections of engineering postdoctoral scholars' identities and how postdocs can be embraced in an intersectional mentorship model.

Traditionally, intersectionality has studied the convergence of overlapping identities through a lens of power and oppression. The foundation of (Program Name) however, is an intersectional mentorship model that implores three types of mentors along with some adaptations of Walker et al.’s (2008) multiple apprenticeship model. Within our intersectional model, the three mentor types are primary (focused on research), secondary (focused on teaching and/or service), and intersectional (aligned with identities of scholars’ choosing). The intersectional model is supported by Walker et al.’s (2008) five key features (1) intentionality, (2) multiple relationships, (3) collective responsibility, (4) recognition, and (5) respect, trust, and reciprocity, which guide how postdocs and their mentors engage. This integrated model engages scholars, mentors, and members of the administrative team in authentic dialogue, promotes a culture that differs from traditional postdoctoral mentorship models, and expands the definition of intersectionality beyond postdocs' overt identities.

Our intersectional mentorship model is one method to highlight the assets of scholars and further develop an inclusive community and culture. Investigating overlapping identities could lead to understanding of how postdocs navigate spaces and cultivate communities in academia. The intersectional mentorship model facilitates this reform by providing scholars with different types of mentors who can meet their diverse intersectional needs and move them toward the professoriate. This exposes scholars early in their careers to savvy strategies that reduce taxation and other oppressive practices that may cause battle fatigue. Another benefit of the model is the connections postdocs develop with faculty who have successfully navigated the academic terrain given their own multiple identities. Having this connection provides a roadmap for scholars who may have not been exposed to faculty of similar identities. Additionally, as the postdocs and their mentors formulate a bond, it creates a safe space for vulnerability and expansions of dialogue beyond research (e.g., community-based service, policy exploration, and mentoring of underrepresented students). These relationships give scholars permission to show up authentically, have challenging conversations, and feel psychologically safe to lead without assimilating or code-switching.

Our goal is to share how (Program Name) provides a transformational model in the development of critically aware scholars who are not expected to separate their personal and professional identities. The focus of the intersectional mentorship model and mentoring elements of the program offers others in academia a blueprint to validate the competence and worth of postdoctoral scholars as they pursue tenure-track faculty positions.

Wiggins, J., & Cox, M. F., & Howard, A., & Saba, B. N., & Leveni, M., & Patrick, S. (2024, February), Exploring the Intersectionality of Engineering Postdoctoral Scholars in the LEGACY Scholars Program Paper presented at 2024 Collaborative Network for Engineering & Computing Diversity (CoNECD), Arlington, Virginia. 10.18260/1-2--45452

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: © 2024 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