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Lessons Learned: Strategies for Creating and Mentoring Diverse Graduate Student Communities

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2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Columbus, Ohio

Publication Date

June 24, 2017

Start Date

June 24, 2017

End Date

June 28, 2017

Conference Session

Student Division Diversity and Persistence Related Technical Session

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Katherine Elfer Tulane University Orcid 16x16

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Kate Elfer is a Ph.D. Candidate in Biomedical Engineering at Tulane University. She researches novel fluorescence strategies for point-of-care diagnostics. While at Tulane, Kate has co-founded the a graduate student group, Women+ in Science and Engineering, and is currently the president of the graduate student government. She is also on the board of two New Orleans STEM Education non-profits. After graduation, she will seek positions that allow her to continue mentoring and teaching STEM at all education levels.

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Anastasia Marie Rynearson Purdue University, West Lafayette (College of Engineering) Orcid 16x16

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Anastasia Rynearson is an Assistant Professor at Campbell University. She received a PhD from Purdue University in Engineering Education and a B.S. and M.Eng. in Mechanical Engineering at the Rochester Institute of Technology. Her teaching experience includes outreach activities at various age levels as well as a position as Assistant Professor in the Mechanical Engineering Department at Kanazawa Technical College and Future Faculty Fellow teaching First-Year Engineering at Purdue University. She focused on integrated STEM curriculum development as part of an NSF STEM+C grant as a Postdoctoral Research Assistant through INSPIRE in the School of Engineering Education at Purdue University Her current research interests focus on early P-12 engineering education and identity development.

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Nathan M. Hicks Purdue University, West Lafayette (College of Engineering) Orcid 16x16

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Nathan M. Hicks is a Ph.D. student in Engineering Education at Purdue University. He received his B.S. and M.S. degrees in Materials Science and Engineering at the University of Florida and taught high school math and science for three years.

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Elizabeth Marie Spingola Virginia Tech Department of Engineering Education

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Liz was the first person in the nation to graduate with a B.S. in Engineering Education from Ohio Northern University with a minor in Mathematics in May, 2014. In generalities, this degree acts as a general engineering degree with a concentration in Computer Science and a Mathematics Education degree with a minor in Mathematics. With this, Liz earned her 7-12 Ohio teaching license in Mathematics. Currently, she is working on completing her Masters in Data Analytics and Applied Statistics and her PhD in Engineering Education surrounding digital barriers and technological learning aids for cognitively disabled engineering students.

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Kaitlin Fair Georgia Institute of Technology

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As both professional societies and universities campuses take more active measures to promote diversity awareness and competency, graduate student inclusion is often a secondary focus after undergraduate and faculty enrichment. Many campus diversity offices are already overburdened with increased demands for programming, leaving graduate students to form their own support communities, which can suffer from lack of guidance or cohesion. While it can be tempting to encourage graduate students to attend undergraduate organizations or nominally include them in faculty mixers, neither proposition promotes the discussions graduate students require for personal or professional development.

At Tulane University, the lack of graduate specific diversity programming has lead to the formation of two communities initiated by and continued through graduate student efforts: Women+ in Science and Engineering (WISE) and The Gender and Sexual Diversity Graduate Coalition. The importance of faculty and administration support, identification of constraints on a graduate community, and a review of successful community activities are discussed in the context of these two groups.

Best practices from a year of events for each community are reviewed in detail. These practices include the implementation of a technical communication seminar and colloquia series, an LGBT in Academia Panel with out faculty members, a workshop on overcoming Imposter Syndrome, and the start of an LGBT in STEM P-12 mentorship program. Both graduate student communities saw increased levels of involvement by centralizing communication methods through a single social media account. Furthermore, the collaboration between graduate communities have been integral to the success of the individual groups as each fulfills intersecting and separate roles within the graduate student body.

These best practices, and all of Tulane’s graduate community activities, are in continual development and benefit from constant feedback.

Elfer, K., & Rynearson, A. M., & Hicks, N. M., & Spingola, E. M., & Fair, K. (2017, June), Lessons Learned: Strategies for Creating and Mentoring Diverse Graduate Student Communities Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2--28624

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: © 2017 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