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Interdisciplinary STEM Peer-mentoring and Distance-based Teams

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2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


San Antonio, Texas

Publication Date

June 10, 2012

Start Date

June 10, 2012

End Date

June 13, 2012



Conference Session

NSF Grantees' Poster Session

Tagged Topic

NSF Grantees Poster Session

Page Count


Page Numbers

25.831.1 - 25.831.11



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Paper Authors


Brian F Martensen Minnesota State University

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Brian F. Martensen is an Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Mathematics and Statistics at Minnesota State University, Mankato. He began working with the NSF-supported MAX Scholar Program in 2009. His interests include inquiry-based models of instruction and ways to facilitate the transition of majors to professionals. His mathematical research is in the area of dynamical systems and topology.

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Deborah K. Nykanen P.E. Minnesota State University, Mankato

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Deborah K. Nykanen is an Associate Professor of Civil Engineering at Minnesota State University, Mankato. She received her Ph.D. degree in civil engineering from the University of Minnesota in 2000. Her teaching, research and professional experience focus on water resources, hydrology and hydrometeorology. Nykanen has 11 years of academic experience and is a registered P.E. in Minnesota.

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Marilyn C. Hart Minnesota State University, Mankato

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Marilyn Hart is the Director of the Undergraduate Research Center, the Co-director of the NSF-STEM supported MAX Scholar Program (Interdisciplinary Mentored Academic Experience for STEM Success) and a professor in the Department of Biological Sciences. Her interests include mentorship and collaborations for undergraduate scholars. As a cell biologist, she studies the dynamics of actin regulation.

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Rebecca A. Bates Minnesota State University, Mankato

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Rebecca A. Bates received the Ph.D. degree in electrical engineering from the University of Washington in 2004. She also received the M.T.S. degree from Harvard Divinity School in 1993. She is currently an Associate Professor in the Computer Science Department and Integrated Engineering program at Minnesota State University, Mankato. She is a 2011-12 AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellow at the National Science Foundation.

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Interdisciplinary STEM Peer-Mentoring and Distance LearningAbstractFacilitating professional development and mentoring for STEM students can be a challenge forprograms but is important for students’ ultimate success and satisfaction with their careers. Inconjunction with a National Science Foundation-sponsored scholarship program, we are buildingon an implementation of an interdisciplinary peer mentoring support system for STEM students.The students receive financial support and an opportunity to develop academic, professional andlife skills through a weekly scholars seminar. The seminars familiarize scholars with variousuniversity support services, allow participation in interdisciplinary discussions addressing broadacademic and career issues, and build relationships with other scholars from diverse STEMdisciplines. The seminar coursework is centered around semester-long investigative projectsdesigned and completed by interdisciplinary teams. A small group of math, science andengineering faculty oversees the seminar and selection of scholars.Our approach is to provide faculty mentoring while developing stepping-stone peer-mentoring.This structure supports students and helps them develop leadership qualities. The recipients, asdefined by the program criteria, are diverse: multiple majors, male, female, nontraditionalstudents, students with different ethnicities, religious affiliations, backgrounds, and familystructure. By including all eligible STEM majors at our university, we have been able toincrease the number of women recipients, which creates a sense of critical mass to support thewomen in engineering.Our program has demonstrated past successes in addressing issues important to the field andaccreditation boards such as functioning on multi-disciplinary teams; understanding ethicalresponsibilities; developing a sense of the global and societal context of STEM work; andsupporting the idea of life-long learning.There are three new aspects to this program that have been implemented in the past year. Thefirst is the expanding majors to include chemistry, biochemistry and physics along with biology,math, computer science, engineering and engineering technology. Second is the shift from theoriginal team of four principal investigators and mentors to a transition mentoring teamconsisting of one of the original PIs, a new PI, and a sabbatical replacement. Finally, a distancecomponent has been incorporated to serve the needs of our scholarship recipients learning at aremote location. The latter has brought many additional challenges not foreseen in our originalproposal.This paper will briefly describe the structure of the interdisciplinary scholarship cohort, itsadvising program and associated seminar, and will focus on the challenges and issues that haverisen because of the distance component. Student feedback from anonymous end-of-termsurveys will be compared to past feedback and reflections by faculty mentors will be used tohighlight challenges and attempts to address them. Reflections on the process of transitioningmentoring and cohort leadership to faculty in permanent and temporary roles will also beincluded.

Martensen, B. F., & Nykanen, D. K., & Hart, M. C., & Bates, R. A. (2012, June), Interdisciplinary STEM Peer-mentoring and Distance-based Teams Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--21588

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