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From Undergraduates to Ambassadors: The Impact of Engineering Ambassador Network Training

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

August 28, 2016





Conference Session

Research on Diversification, Inclusion, and Empathy II

Tagged Division

Liberal Education/Engineering & Society

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Paper Authors


Joanna K. Garner Old Dominion University

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Dr. Garner is Associate Director for Program Development and 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 founder of the website Writing Guidelines for Engineering and Science (, which receives more than 1 million page downloads each year.

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Christine Haas Engineering Ambassadors Network

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Christine Haas brings 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 CEO 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 works closely with Penn State University faculty Michael Alley (The Craft of Scientific Presentations and The Craft of Scientific Writing) and Melissa Marshall (TED, “Talk Nerdy to Me”) on these courses.

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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Avi Kaplan Temple University

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The Engineering Ambassadors Network Training is a two-and-a-half day intensive professional development event for students who have been accepted into an Engineering Ambassador program. The workshop format was originally conceived as a vehicle for training new ambassadors to deliver messages about the immense potential of engineering. Training focuses on creating outreach presentations that achieve maximum impact through advanced communication techniques. Post-workshop surveys reveal high levels of perceived confidence and readiness. However, deeper insights into the impact of the training have arisen from post-workshop interviews, in which participants report that the experience is transformative and that the Engineering Ambassador mission has much meaning for them personally and professionally. Articulating the nature and implications of such impacts is the focus of this paper.

The study described in this paper synthesizes six purposefully diverse interviews. The research was guided by three questions: How do components of individuals’ role identities combine to inform the motivation to become an Engineering Ambassador? How does the training crystallize students’ self-perceptions of themselves as professionals and ambassadors for the field of engineering? Which features of the workshop emerge as the most powerful experiences for triggering the formulation of an Engineering Ambassador role identity?

Analyses reveal students’ substantial personal investment in their role as an engineering student and an emerging ambassador. The decision to participate is often driven by personal interests and experiences, and is tied to a deep sense of importance for the work. Similarly, choice of presentation topic is also often personal. Presentation skills reveal new courses of future action; ambassadors describe increases in confidence and many report using the skills immediately. Opportunities to meet other ambassadors are singled out as a major benefit, and students use newly acquired programmatic knowledge to shape the role expectations at their institution. The study’s findings provide examples of how Engineering Ambassadors Network training leverages the emerging professional role identities of engineering students, and offer insights into training program features that increase new participants’ commitments to the mission of the organization and the field of engineering as a whole.

Garner, J. K., & Alley, M., & Haas, C., & Kaplan, A. (2016, June), From Undergraduates to Ambassadors: The Impact of Engineering Ambassador Network Training Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.26978

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