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Nonacademic Career Pathways for Engineering Doctoral Students: An Evaluation of an NSF Research Traineeship Program

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Conference

2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access

Location

Virtual On line

Publication Date

June 22, 2020

Start Date

June 22, 2020

End Date

June 26, 2021

Conference Session

Graduate Education Expectations, Preparation, and Pathways

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Page Count

18

DOI

10.18260/1-2--34996

Permanent URL

https://strategy.asee.org/34996

Download Count

223

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Paper Authors

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Maya Denton University of Texas at Austin

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Maya Denton is a STEM Education doctoral student and Graduate Research Assistant in the Center for Engineering Education at the University of Texas at Austin. She received her B.S. in Chemical Engineering from Purdue University. Prior to attending UT-Austin, she worked as a chemical engineer for an industrial gas company.

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Maura J. Borrego University of Texas at Austin

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Maura Borrego is Director of the Center for Engineering Education and Professor of Mechanical Engineering and STEM Education at the University of Texas at Austin. Dr. Borrego is Senior Associaate Editor for Journal of Women and Minorities in Science and Engineering. She previously served as Deputy Editor for Journal of Engineering Education, a Program Director at the National Science Foundation, on the board of the American Society for Engineering Education, and as an associate dean and director of interdisciplinary graduate programs. Her research awards include U.S. Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE), a National Science Foundation CAREER award, and two outstanding publication awards from the American Educational Research Association for her journal articles. All of Dr. Borrego’s degrees are in Materials Science and Engineering. Her M.S. and Ph.D. are from Stanford University, and her B.S. is from University of Wisconsin-Madison.

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Chi-Ning Chang University of Kansas Orcid 16x16 orcid.org/0000-0003-4659-4898

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Chi-Ning Chang (Ph.D., Texas A&M University) is an Assistant Research Professor at the Life Span Institute at the University of Kansas. His research work centers on engineering graduate education, STEM motivation and diversity, and quantitative methods. He was a graduate researcher in several STEM education projects funded by the NRT (National Science Foundation Research Traineeship) program and NSF-AGEP (Alliances for Graduate Education and the Professoriate) program.

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Audrey Boklage University of Texas at Austin

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Audrey Boklage is research assistant and director of the curriculum lab at Texas Inventionworks in the Cockrell School of Engineering at the University of Texas at Austin. She is particularly interested in improving the culture and environment of undergraduate education experience for all students, particularly those from underrepresented groups.

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Raymundo Arroyave Texas A&M University

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Dr. Arroyave is a Professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering and holds courtesy appointments in the Departments of Mechanical Engineering and Industrial and Systems Engineeering. His area of research is computational materials science and simulation-enabled materials design, as well as interdisciplinary approaches to materials discovery. He is also interested in interdisciplinary graduate education and is the Director of an NSF-NRT Program. He is author/co-author of over 170 journal publications, 25 conference proceedings and has given close to 75 invited talks at international and international venues.

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Abstract

Our evidence-based practice paper examines non-academic pathways, which are becoming increasingly common for graduate degree recipients, particularly those in STEM fields. However, career preparation by academic institutions, faculty, and advisors tends to overwhelmingly focus on academic career pathways. One program that seeks to prepare doctoral students for a wider range of career options is Data-Enabled Discovery and Design of Energy Materials (D3EM) at Texas A&M University, which began in 2016 and focuses on the interdisciplinary training of scientists and engineers for many potential future careers. Students in D3EM take part in a cross-disciplinary curriculum of 15 credit hours, in addition to many additional supports, such as mentoring "coffee chats" and writing groups. We are investigating the following evaluation question, in the context of this program: What experiences and program components may help engineering doctoral students increase their interest and preparation for a career in industry or government, and why are they effective? We conducted interviews with 12 participants from the 2017 and 2018 cohorts of the D3EM program. Other evaluation data provides context for these interviews. Following content analysis of the interview data, several themes emerged. In general, students reported a lack of stigma in D3EM around pursuing nonacademic careers. Internships and capstone design projects completed for government lab clients in particular increased students' interest in nonacademic career paths, and helped them develop contacts and experiences within government labs to better understand and prepare for full-time work as a government researcher. Informal mentoring opportunities, such as mentoring coffee chats, allowed students to ask questions related to careers by interacting with program faculty. Finally, students created portfolios and individual development plans which would be expected to support their career development, but students reported that these requirements were more onerous than helpful. The D3EM program serves as an example of how impactful programs can be designed to encourage students to explore a variety of potential future career pathways, particularly beyond tenure-track faculty positions. Implications from the findings include the continued implementation of such programs and sustained efforts to change the conversation about PhD careers that reflect the job market and graduate student interests.

Denton, M., & Borrego, M. J., & Chang, C., & Boklage, A., & Arroyave, R. (2020, June), Nonacademic Career Pathways for Engineering Doctoral Students: An Evaluation of an NSF Research Traineeship Program Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--34996

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