June 15, 2014
June 15, 2014
June 18, 2014
Minorities in Engineering
24.1308.1 - 24.1308.9
Front-end Evaluation of an Ambassador Program at a Historically Black College/University (HBCU): The Ambassador as Participant Observer ABSTRACTAmbassador programs typically use a selective process to identify undergraduate juniors and/orseniors with strong leadership capabilities. The role of the ambassador is multifaceted, consistingof supporting departmental recruitment, peer-mentoring of other students, and serving as studentliaisons for departments or colleges/schools and their respective stakeholders. Ambassadorprograms help students to develop professional skills, especially in the areas of communicationand interpersonal relations (Haas et al., 2013). More specifically, ambassador programs facilitatestudent engagement, which also serves the best interests of students academically andprofessionally at all levels. Student engagement theory is now highly relevant to mostuniversities, given the new Carnegie Classification emphasis on the constructs reflecting studentengagement in higher education (Pike & Kuh, 2005). However, the roles and effectiveness ofambassadors are often discussed and evaluated from an external perspective, namely that offaculty and administrators. The major component, peer mentoring, is recognized as an impactfulmechanism for academic success and retention (Dahlberg et al., 2007; King et al., 2013), yet theperspective of the peer mentors who are immersed in the day-to-day activities of mentoring arenot often captured from the peer mentors subjectiveIn this project, we focused on an ambassador-led effort to observe the process of a newambassador program that consisted of, among other functions, a peer-mentoring component forfirst-year students in industrial and systems engineering (ISE). The outcomes of the study willalso serve as a front-end evaluation (Perry et al., 1998) to identify valid indicators and metricsfor summative evaluation of ambassador programs, and specifically, the first-year freshmanpeer-mentoring component. We operated on the proposition that information provided to ourambassadors serving in their peer-mentoring role will be different, and possibly richer, thaninformation provided to the department through more formal surveys.The two ambassadors (one junior and one senior) served as participant observers of the process,and provided their own observations and reflections. Using ethnographic observation, bothambassadors implemented peer-mentoring support mechanisms, communication processes suchas group text messaging, and meetings with their respective mentees. The observations andreflections were summarized and qualitatively analyzed by the ambassadors. Analysis of theGroupMe texting data using the axial coding method showed very clear problem areas reportedby ISE freshmen. These included how to study to be successful academically and how to usestudy groups effectively. The ambassadors’ analyses also identified several interestingcommunication patterns when interacting with freshman, including no interaction at all, and aneed to ask broad questions and then funnel down to specific probing questions when checking-in with each freshman to avoid defensiveness and respect privacy. Another key finding wasfreshman lack of knowledge of the academic services available, in spite of orientations,announcements, seminars/workshops, chats, and other mechanisms to increase awareness ofsupport services. Ambassadors also surveyed freshmen to identify additional needs. Theambassadors’ survey results will be compared to the departmental survey results evaluating thesame freshman peer mentoring program. Translation of the front-end evaluation data will bediscussed, along with specific metrics and indicators to use for summative evaluations ofambassador programs.ReferencesDahlberg, T., Barnes, T., and Rorrer, A. (2007). The STARS Leadership Model for BroadenignParticipation in Computing. 37th ASEE/IEEE Frontiers in Education Conference, October 10 –13, 2007, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Session F3A.Haas, C., McElholm, L., Renfro, S., Herkenham, E., Marshall, M., Alley, M. (2013).Engineering ambassador network: Establishment of successful ambassador engineering programsat four UTC Partner Schools. Proceedings of the 120th ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition,January 23 – 26, 2013, paper ID#7461.King, S., Favret, J., Barney, G., and Landry, J. (2013). Engaging peer mentors in freshmanprograms. 5th First Year Engineering Experience (FYEE) Conference, Pittsburgh, PA, SessionF4C.Perry, D.L., Garibay, C., & Gyllenhaal, E.D. (1998). Front-end evaluation for LifeUnderground, a Field Museum exhibition about life in the soil. Current Trends in AudienceResearch and Evaluation, 11, 59 – 67.Pike, G. and Kuh, G. (2005). A typology of student engagement for American colleges anduniversities. Research in Higher Education, 46, 185 – 209.
Smith-Jackson, T. L., & Benedict, B. S., & Stewart, G. T., & Vinson, E. S. (2014, June), Use of Front-end Evaluation to Design an Ambassador Program (ISEAmP) Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--23241
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