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To Be, or Not to Be, a Professor: Views of Engineering Postdoctoral Scholars

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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

Research in Faculty Development

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Faculty Development Division

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Paper Authors


Sylvia L. Mendez University of Colorado at Colorado Springs

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Dr. Sylvia Mendez is an Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Leadership, Research, and Foundations at the University of Colorado Colorado Springs. She earned a PhD in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies from the University of Kansas, a MS in Student Affairs in Higher Education from Colorado State University, and a BA in Economics from Washington State University. Dr. Mendez's research centers on the educational attainment and schooling experiences of Mexican descent youth in the mid-20th century, higher education student success, and faculty mentoring programs.

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Valerie Martin Conley University of Colorado at Colorado Springs

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Valerie Martin Conley is dean of the College of Education and professor of Leadership, Research, and Foundations at the University of Colorado Colorado Springs. She previously served as director of the Center for Higher Education, professor, and department chair at Ohio University. She was the PI for the NSF funded research project: Academic Career Success in Science and Engineering-Related Fields for Female Faculty at Public Two-Year Institutions. She is co-author of The Faculty Factor: Reassessing the American Academy in a Turbulent Era.

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Sarah E Cooksey University of Colorado Colorado Springs


Kathryn Elizabeth Starkey University of Colorado Colorado Springs

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Ms. Starkey is currently a second year doctoral student in Leadership, Research, & Policy at the University of Colorado Colorado Springs. In addition to her doctoral studies, she is currently employed at the Adult Learning Lead Specialist at Colorado State University Pueblo. Her research interests include state education policy, adult learning, and policy analysis and evaluation, which allows her to pursue these interests both in her studies and in employment.

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Through an embedded, multiple-case study design, this interpretivist research paper explores the ways in which 22 engineering postdoctoral scholars describe the appeal of pursuing a career in the professoriate. Interviews, grounded by social cognitive career theory (SCCT) (Lent et al., 1994), offered an in-depth understanding of the nature, meaning, and ways in which their postdoctoral scholars’ learning experiences influence their view of the professoriate and, consequently, their career decision-making process. Data analysis strategies established by Silverman (1993) and Stake (1995) were utilized to examine the interview data, employing both inductive and deductive analysis techniques. Four themes emerged: (1) the professoriate appears daunting due to the competitive nature of the job market and the academic environment, (2) the work demands of the professoriate are contrary to the work-life balance sought, (3) possessing research autonomy in the professoriate is highly attractive, and (4) the professoriate is perceived as a calling for those who desire to teach and mentor the upcoming generation of engineers. A more nuanced understanding of the appeal of the professoriate and the career decision-making process of postdoctoral scholars may be an avenue to aid in diversifying the engineering professoriate. The preferred presentation method is a traditional lecture.

Mendez, S. L., & Conley, V. M., & Cooksey, S. E., & Starkey, K. E. (2020, June), To Be, or Not to Be, a Professor: Views of Engineering Postdoctoral Scholars Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--35389

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