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Igert Funding And The Institutionalization Of Interdisciplinary Graduate Education

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Conference

2009 Annual Conference & Exposition

Location

Austin, Texas

Publication Date

June 14, 2009

Start Date

June 14, 2009

End Date

June 17, 2009

ISSN

2153-5965

Conference Session

Measuring Success of Graduate Program Components

Tagged Division

Graduate Studies

Page Count

11

Page Numbers

14.683.1 - 14.683.11

Permanent URL

https://peer.asee.org/4829

Download Count

42

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Paper Authors

biography

Lynita Newswander Virginia Tech

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LYNITA K. NEWSWANDER holds a Ph.D. in Planning, Governance, and Globalization and master's
degrees in English and Political Science from Virginia Tech. Her current research interests are interdisciplinary and reside at the intersection of theory and the empirical aesthetic.

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biography

Maura Borrego Virginia Tech

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MAURA BORREGO is an Assistant Professor of Engineering Education at Virginia Tech. Dr.
Borrego holds an M.S. and Ph.D. in Materials Science and Engineering from Stanford University.
Her current research interests center around interdisciplinary graduate education in engineering. She has an NSF CAREER and Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE) award for this work.

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Abstract
NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

IGERT Funding and the Institutionalization of Interdisciplinary Graduate Education

Abstract

Interdisciplinary graduate education is key to the preparation of tomorrow’s engineers, researchers and faculty. The U.S. National Science Foundation’s Integrative Graduate Education Research Traineeships (IGERTs) provide funding to train students in interdisciplinary science and engineering. These five-year federal grants fund student traineeships, travel, and some supplies, but not equipment, space, or faculty lines. According to the 2008 RFP, “The program is intended to catalyze a cultural change in graduate education, for students, faculty, and institutions, by establishing innovative new models for graduate education and training in a fertile environment for collaborative research that transcends traditional disciplinary boundaries.” Therefore, if interdisciplinary graduate education innovations are to be institutionalized, additional provisions must be made by the university faculty and administration. To better understand the strategies employed to institutionalize changes initiated through a limited source of funding, we conducted a qualitative analysis of the successful proposals of 134 IGERT grants. Each proposal was selectively coded for plans to institutionalize the interdisciplinary program. The most commonly cited strategies included new certificate or degree programs, commitment of space and/or faculty lines, and cost-sharing with existing departments or research centers. Several proposals did not address sustaining the program beyond the initial funding period. These findings support an argument for a more inclusive approach on the part of universities and faculties to supporting interdisciplinary programs such as IGERT, built on the realization that a comprehensive approach to sustainability is necessary in order for interdisciplinary change to become permanent at an institution. This broad survey of institutionalization plans complements an ongoing in-depth study of the impact of IGERT on interdisciplinary activities at a few specific institutions.

Introduction

Innovation in graduate education is key to the preparation of tomorrow’s engineers, researchers and faculty1-3. Often, innovations are prompted or supported by outside sources of funding, such as grants and fellowships that allow for new systems or foci of research to be explored4. The U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF), for example, supports several initiatives, including Integrative Graduate Research Education Traineeships (IGERT). IGERT money is used to support graduate student trainees in interdisciplinary research initiatives5. Specifically, according to the 2008 RFP, “The program is intended to catalyze a cultural change in graduate education, for students, faculty, and institutions, by establishing innovative new models for graduate education and training in a fertile environment for collaborative research that transcends traditional disciplinary boundaries”5. Unfortunately, after start-up grants and fellowship programs like IGERT run out, many innovations in higher education are forced to scale back or are abandoned altogether6. Sustaining innovation beyond preliminary funding requires careful consideration of possibilities for institutionalization.

The purpose of this analysis is to determine what kinds of efforts at institutionalization of innovation have been recently proposed in initial plans for graduate education. Specifically, we

1

Newswander, L., & Borrego, M. (2009, June), Igert Funding And The Institutionalization Of Interdisciplinary Graduate Education Paper presented at 2009 Annual Conference & Exposition, Austin, Texas. https://peer.asee.org/4829

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