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The Consequential Agency of Faculty Seeking to Make Departmental Change

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2022 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Minneapolis, MN

Publication Date

August 23, 2022

Start Date

June 26, 2022

End Date

June 29, 2022

Conference Session

NSF Grantees Poster Session

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Paper Authors


Vanessa Svihla University of New Mexico

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Dr. Vanessa Svihla is an associate professor at the University of New Mexico (UNM) with appointments in learning sciences and engineering. Her research, funded by an NSF CAREER award, focuses on how people learn as they frame problems and how these activities relate to identity, agency and creativity.

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Nadia Kellam Arizona State University

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Dr. Nadia Kellam (she/they) is Associate Professor of Engineering within The Polytechnic School of the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at Arizona State University (ASU). She is a faculty in the Engineering Education Systems and Design (EESD) PhD program and currently advises three doctoral students. Dr. Kellam is an engineering education researcher and a mechanical engineer. She is also deputy editor of the Journal of Engineering Education and co-chair of the newly formed American Society of Engineering Education’s Committee on Scholarly Publications. In her research she is broadly interested in developing critical understandings of the culture of engineering education and, especially, the experiences of marginalized undergraduate engineering students and engineering educators. She is a qualitative researcher who uses narrative research methods and positioning theory to understand undergraduate student and faculty member’s experiences in engineering education.

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Susannah Davis University of New Mexico

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Over the past decade, much attention has focused on change-making efforts, especially those funded by the NSF Revolutionizing Engineering Departments program. We bring together theory on agency and intersectional power to investigate a research question: • How and over what/whom do faculty engaged in departmental change efforts express agency, with attention to structural, cultural, normative, and interpersonal power relations? We draw upon recordings of faculty meetings and interviews across multiple change teams and years to characterize consequential change agency. Analysis of these highlights how accounts of contentious events reveals power dynamics at play, and ways those in power prevent or promote change. We argue that key elements of change agency include meeting others where they are, sharing agency with them (“we”), using potential control verbs (can, could, might, etc.), acknowledging their concerns, and inviting them into the effort in ways that suggest ownership.

Svihla, V., & Kellam, N., & Davis, S. (2022, August), The Consequential Agency of Faculty Seeking to Make Departmental Change Paper presented at 2022 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Minneapolis, MN.

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