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Use of Personas in Exploring Scholarship Applicants

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2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual Conference

Publication Date

July 26, 2021

Start Date

July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

Conference Session

Medley of Undergraduate Programming and Pedagogies

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

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Anastasia Marie Rynearson Campbell University Orcid 16x16

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Anastasia Rynearson is an Assistant Professor at Campbell University. She received a PhD from Purdue University in Engineering Education and a B.S. and M.Eng. in Mechanical Engineering at the Rochester Institute of Technology. Her teaching experience includes outreach activities at various age levels as well as a position as Assistant Professor in the Mechanical Engineering Department at Kanazawa Technical College and Future Faculty Fellow teaching First-Year Engineering at Purdue University. She focused on integrated STEM curriculum development as part of an NSF STEM+C grant as a Postdoctoral Research Assistant through INSPIRE in the School of Engineering Education at Purdue University Her current research interests focus on early P-12 engineering education and identity development.

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Jacqueline Gartner Ph.D. Campbell University

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Jacqueline Burgher Gartner is an Assistant Professor at Campbell University in the School of Engineering, which offers a broad BS in engineering with concentrations in chemical and mechanical.

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Michele Miller Campbell University

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Dr. Michele Miller is a Professor and Associate Dean at Campbell University. Prior to joining Campbell in 2017, she was a professor of mechanical engineering at Michigan Tech. She received undergraduate and graduate degrees in mechanical engineering from Duke and NC State, respectively. Her research interests include engineering education and precision manufacturing.

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A recent S-STEM award has allowed the engineering program in a rural, liberal arts institution to offer a need-based scholarship program for its students. The engineering program has a number of veteran, underrepresented minority, transfer, and nontraditional students. Many students are also first-generation college students. The institution and engineering program matriculate a number of under-served populations, students who may have needs that are not well understood in the typical engineering education literature. The scholarship program and its associated mentoring and activities will assist workforce development and will also incorporate a number of research avenues to better understand and serve the student population in this unique setting. To apply for the program, students must fill out an application with four 250 – 500 word essay responses relating to their academic progress, perceived barriers to degree completion, and how this award would help them to complete their degree. This study continues work using personas, a method used in human-centered design. Using the first round of scholarship application essays as a source, three personas were developed, one successful applicant, one unsuccessful applicant, and one general applicant. Personas are detailed profiles of a fake person who could reasonably be in each category of interest. In human-centered design, personas are detailed descriptions of likely clients or end-users, developed to help the engineers focus on who they might be designing for. The profiles developed in this study were used to gain insight into which students were likely to choose to apply and which students may be missing out on this opportunity. It is time for another round of applications for this grant and the use of personas will continue and expand as part of this study. Before reviewing applications, the committee will create two personas as ideal candidates instead of developing a standardized rubric. Subsequently, three personas will be developed from the Fall 2020 applications, one for all applicants, one for successful applicants, and one for unsuccessful applicants. These personas will then be compared to the personas created by the application review committee and the personas created from the Fall 2018 applicants. Similarities and differences across the persona groups will be explored to determine whether the applicants are what the reviewers expected and whether the pool of applicants has evolved or remained mostly the same throughout the scholarship program. Review committee members will also be interviewed in a focus group setting to discuss their experiences using common personas rather than standardized rubrics in the application review process. At this time, the applications are not yet due and the analysis has not yet begun. Initial interest for the grant has been strong and we anticipate at least thirty applications for the nineteen available grants. Results presented will include the student profiles and faculty experiences with the use of personas as a metric for reviewing student applications.

Rynearson, A. M., & Gartner, J., & Miller, M. (2021, July), Use of Personas in Exploring Scholarship Applicants Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference.

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