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The Ph.D. Advising Relationship: Needs of Returning and Direct-Pathway Students

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2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Indianapolis, Indiana

Publication Date

June 15, 2014

Start Date

June 15, 2014

End Date

June 18, 2014



Conference Session

Professional Development and Advising for Graduate Students

Tagged Division

Graduate Studies

Page Count


Page Numbers

24.1238.1 - 24.1238.13



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Paper Authors

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Erika Mosyjowski University of Michigan


Shanna R. Daly University of Michigan Orcid 16x16

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Shanna Daly is an Assistant Research Scientist and Adjunct Assistant Professor in the College of Engineering at the University of Michigan. She has a B.E. in Chemical Engineering from the University of Dayton and a Ph.D. in Engineering Education from Purdue University. Her research focuses on idea generation, design strategies, design ethnography, creativity instruction, and engineering practitioners who return to graduate school. She teaches design and entrepreneurship courses at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Her work is often cross-disciplinary, collaborating with colleagues from engineering, education, psychology, and industrial design.

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Diane L Peters Kettering University

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Diane Peters is an Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Kettering University in Flint, MI. Her engineering education research focuses on the interaction between industry and academia.

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Steve Skerlos University of Michigan

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Professor Steven J. Skerlos is Arthur F. Thurnau Professor at the University of Michigan. He is a tenured faculty member in Mechanical Engineering and Civil and Environmental Engineering. He also serves as a UM Distinguished Faculty Fellow in Sustainability.

He is Director of Sustainability Education Programs in the College of Engineering and Co-Director of the Engineering Sustainable Systems Program. He is Chief Science Officer of Fusion Coolant Systems.

Professor Skerlos has gained national recognition and press for his research and teaching in the fields of technology policy and sustainable design. He has co-founded two successful start-up companies (Accuri Cytometers and Fusion Coolant Systems), co-founded BLUElab, served as Director of the Graduate Program in Mechanical Engineering (2009-2012), and served as associate and guest editor for four different academic journals.

His Ph.D. students in the Environmental and Sustainable Technologies Laboratory have addressed sustainability challenges in the fields of systems design, technology selection, manufacturing, and water.

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Adam B. Baker University of Michigan

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The PhD Advising Relationship: Needs of Returning and Directing-Pathway StudentsThough a majority of engineering PhD students begin their doctoral career shortly aftercompleting an undergraduate degree (and perhaps a Master’s), a significant minority of studentsare “returners,” students who pursue a PhD after working outside of academia for five or moreyears. In the first phase of a three year NSF-funded study that aims to characterize the populationof returning engineering PhD students, explore the interactions of their previous workexperiences and their academic work, and investigate stakeholder views and institutional policiesrelated to returning PhD students, we developed the nationally distributed Graduate StudentExperiences and Motivations Survey (GSEMS) to compare experiences and perspectives ofreturners and direct-pathway students (those who progress through to the PhD without a 5 yearor more gap). The survey included, among other topics, questions relating to students’relationships with their advisors.The advising relationship is a critical aspect of a PhD student’s experience. For both returningand direct-pathway students, advisors can have a significant effect on students’ research,academic progress, feelings of support, and ultimate success. Based on data collected from bothgroups using the GSEMS, we examined how students described their relationships with theiradvisors. We report analyses of both quantitative and qualitative data, including how studentsassessed their advisors’ effectiveness in meeting their needs in the following areas: availability tomeet, management style, personal supportiveness, feedback on research, assistance withacademic difficulties, and career advice, as well as themes describing advisor relationships. Keyfindings include the lack of significant differences in ways returners and direct-pathway studentsreport what they need from their advisors to feel supported, areas where students feel most andleast supported, and emergent themes from students’ open-ended responses about the advisingrelationship.A better understanding of how engineering graduate students perceive their advising experienceand their advisors’ effectiveness at meeting their needs is important in identifying ways toimprove advising to better support the needs of PhD students in a variety of areas.

Mosyjowski, E., & Daly, S. R., & Peters, D. L., & Skerlos, S., & Baker, A. B. (2014, June), The Ph.D. Advising Relationship: Needs of Returning and Direct-Pathway Students Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--23171

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