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Institutional Ethnography as a Method to Understand the Career and Parental Leave Experiences of STEM Faculty Members

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2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Vancouver, BC

Publication Date

June 26, 2011

Start Date

June 26, 2011

End Date

June 29, 2011



Conference Session

Reports from ADVANCE Institutions

Tagged Division

Women in Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.888.1 - 22.888.20



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Paper Authors


Marisol Mercado Santiago Purdue University

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Marisol Mercado Santiago is a doctoral student in the School of Engineering Education, Purdue University, and a research assistant in the Research in Feminist Engineering (RIFE) group. She has a M.E. in Computer Engineering and a B.S. in Computer Science (with honors). Among her research interests are 1) culturally responsive education, 2) science and technology studies, and 3) art and engineering education. Address: School of Engineering Education, Armstrong Hall, 701 W. Stadium Ave., West Lafayette, IN 47907.

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Alice L. Pawley Purdue University, West Lafayette Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Alice L. Pawley is an assistant professor in the School of Engineering Education and an affiliate faculty member in the Women’s Studies Program at Purdue University. She has a B.Eng. in Chemical Engineering from McGill University, and an M.S. and a Ph.D. in Industrial and Systems Engineering with a Ph.D. minor in Women’s Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She is Co-PI and Research Director of Purdue University’s ADVANCE program, and PI on the Assessing Sustainability Knowledge project. She runs the Research in Feminist Engineering (RIFE) group, whose projects are described at the group's website, She is interested in creating new models for thinking about gender and race in the context of engineering education. She was recently awarded a CAREER grant for the project, "Learning from Small Numbers: Using personal narratives by underrepresented undergraduate students to promote institutional change in engineering education."

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Jordana Hoegh Purdue University

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Jordana Hoegh, M.S., is a doctoral student in the Department of Sociology at Purdue University. Her research interests include early adult life course and transitions, self and identity, sociology of the family, work and organizations, and social networks. She is currently conducting her dissertation research on the role of motherhood in the career paths of women with engineering doctorates.

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Dina Banerjee Purdue University, West Lafayette

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Dina Banerjee is a post-doctoral research fellow in the Center for Faculty Success, Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana. Her primary responsibility is the study of the career-related experiences of the women and minority faculty members of the STEM disciplines of Purdue University. She graduated with her Ph.D. from Purdue University in May, 2009. After her admission in Purdue University in 2002, she graduated with her third Masters with sociology major in 2004. Her areas of specialization are gender, work, occupation and labor markets; development and social change; transnational feminism and globalization; and sociology of developing nations. In her doctoral dissertation she has examined the effects of sex-segregation and racial/ethnic segregation on the job-related well-being of women workers in USA. She is also associated with the Women’s Studies Program at Purdue University. Before coming to the U.S. as a graduate student, she worked as a lecturer in the University of Calcutta (Kolkata, India) teaching courses on gender, industry and labor market; gender and social change; women and development; and sociological theories and methods.

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Institutional Ethnography as a Method to Understand the Career and Parental Leave Experiences of STEM Faculty and Staff MembersThe majority of academic institutions have parental leave policies to help their faculty and staffmembers manage their career and personal life when a child is welcomed as a new member ofthe family. The experiences of these professionals, when they have taken parental leave or arefamiliar with its procedures, can be used to improve policies on behalf of the whole institution.The methodological tool of institutional ethnography is one important method to investigate howpolicy impacts the lived experiences of faculty and staff in an academic institution. This researchmethod helps institutional leaders and researchers identify and analyze important key issues inthe daily lives of faculty and staff members who have directly or indirectly experienced variousinstitution's policies. In particular, science, technology, and engineering colleges situated withinuniversities can use this research method to better help their faculty and staff members excel inthe overall work of the institution projects, thereby supporting the work of their institution andthe success of their STEM students.In this paper, we will focus in Purdue University's parental leave policy and our initial findingsof our institutional ethnographic study focused on our policy analysis and its implications for thecareer and daily lives of STEM staff and faculty members, with a particular focus on engineeringfaculty members. This work serves as a case study where we investigate the impact of aparticular policy that impacts the work-life balance of faculty members – its contribution is bothin describing the specific case of a parental leave policy and in illustrating the contribution ofinstitutional ethnography as a method to study STEM faculty work. This work is grounded byour paper presented at the ASEE 2010 conference titled “Institutional Ethnography: A ResearchMethod to Investigate the Work-Life Experiences of Women Faculty Members in STEMDisciplines” -- we will continue the discussion of institutional ethnography and the discourseanalysis of policy texts, but in this case focused on the parental leave policy, and incorporatingmore connection with our interview data.Our data comes from 12 interviews of STEM faculty and staff members in the time period of2009-2010. The interviews covered the topics of STEM faculty and staff members' experiencesin using and comprehending the parental leave policy, its procedures, and the effect of itsimplementation in their personal and career lives. Initial common themes identified in ouranalysis phase will be discussed. Suggestions of possible alternatives, drawing from sociologicaltheories, will be argued to give examples of ways in which the institution can improve itsparental leave policy, procedures, and dissemination. In addition, this paper can aid other STEM-focused institutions in using institutional ethnography as a method to investigate the livedexperiences of faculty members in their institutions.

Santiago, M. M., & Pawley, A. L., & Hoegh, J., & Banerjee, D. (2011, June), Institutional Ethnography as a Method to Understand the Career and Parental Leave Experiences of STEM Faculty Members Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--18192

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