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RIEF: Mapping the Development of Leadership Skills for Undergraduate Engineering Students in Leadership Positions

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2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual On line

Publication Date

June 22, 2020

Start Date

June 22, 2020

End Date

June 26, 2021

Conference Session

NSF Grantees: Student Development

Tagged Topics

Diversity and NSF Grantees Poster Session

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Carmen M. Lilley University of Illinois at Chicago

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Dr. Lilley’s research interests in engineering education focus on professional development of engineering students at the undergraduate and graduate level. In particular, she is interested in the nuances of how the intersection of race/ethnicity with gender affects professional development in the area of leadership and the long term career trajectory of an individual. Her other research interests are focused on syntheses of low dimensions materials and the characterization and modeling of their material properties.

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There is a strong economic argument to increase racial and gender diversity of executive leadership in companies. Researchers found that greater ethnic/cultural and gender diversity of executive leadership teams correlated to increased financial outperform other companies by 33% and 21% respectively. In addition, leadership skills are considered as key skills for those entering the workforce. Yet, there is a gap of formal leadership development of engineering students. In general, leadership formation has been widely studied. There is also a strong body of research on the effects of race/ethnicity and gender on professional development of engineering students in science and engineering. However, the majority of research focuses on analysis that uses only the lens of gender or race. Yet, the theory of intersectionality strongly supports the argument that the intersection of race and gender results in significant differences in the experiences of individuals and overlooks nuances in factors that influence the resilience of an engineering student or professional. This significant gap in knowledge on the intersectionality of race and gender on leadership formation of undergraduate engineering students negatively impacts the long-term retention and promotion of Underrepresented Minority (URM) engineers once they enter the workforce. This research aims to addressing the gap of knowledge on organizational leadership formation by researching the following questions: What are the leadership experiences of undergraduate engineering students? What factors impact their resilience or perseverance to be leaders? Theoretical Framework The theoretical framework was to use intersectionality of critical race theory and feminism. Simply put, if only critical race theory is used as the lens by which we analyze the factors that affect perseverance then racism would be the critical factor that affects perseverance of the students in organizational leadership. If only feminism is considered, then sexism would be critical factor that affects the perseverance of the students. Yet, there are much greater interactions between these two factors in making the experiences for URM undergraduates unique and therefore mapping the factors at the individual model on factors that affect perseverance will address where there are gaps in engineering education in the area of organizational leadership formation. In addition, the outcomes of this research will inform what types of new educational programs or institutional transformation programs can result in an inclusive approach to leadership formation of a diverse undergraduate student population in engineering. Methods This research was conducted using a constructivism paradigm and Grounded Theory using Charmaz’s approach. One-on-one interview were conducted by the PI with undergraduate engineering students within social subgroups (URM Men, URM Women, Asian Men, Asian Women, White Men and White Women). Grounded Theory as the conceptual framework used in analysis of these interviews using Charmaz’s approach for performing the analysis of the qualitative interviews. Questions for the interview guide were developed in consultation with two social scientists with expertise on race and gender; as well as consulting two underrepresented minority undergraduate engineering students, one male and one female, who were leaders in their engineering societies and who did not take part in the study. From this analytical approach, a concept map of the factors that influence perseverance in organizational leadership for undergraduate engineering students is proposed and the interactions among social identities and other factors on perseverance is discussed.

Lilley, C. M. (2020, June), RIEF: Mapping the Development of Leadership Skills for Undergraduate Engineering Students in Leadership Positions Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--35165

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