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Work in Progress: Recommendations for Early Career Faculty to Engage in Interdisciplinary STEAM Collaborations

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2023 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Baltimore , Maryland

Publication Date

June 25, 2023

Start Date

June 25, 2023

End Date

June 28, 2023

Conference Session

Faculty Development and Research Programs (NEE)

Tagged Division

New Engineering Educators Division (NEE)

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Paper Authors


Renee M. Desing Oregon State University Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Renee Desing is a postdoctoral scholar at Oregon State University in the School of Civil and Construction Engineering. Her research interests include diversity, equity, inclusion in the engineering classrooms and workplaces. Dr. Desing graduated from Ohio State with her Ph.D. in Engineering Education, and also holds a B.S. in Industrial Engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology and a M.S. in Industrial Engineering and Operations Research from the Pennsylvania State University.

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Abigail Clark The Ohio Northern University Orcid 16x16

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Abigail Clark is an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at Ohio Northern University. She holds a PhD in Engineering Education from The Ohio State University. She also holds degrees in Mechanical Engineering from Ohio State and Ohio Northern University. Prior to her time at OSU, she worked at Battelle Memorial Institute in Columbus, Ohio. Her research interests include pre-college engineering education, informal engineering education, and identity development.

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Rachel Louis Kajfez The Ohio State University Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Rachel Louis Kajfez is an Associate Professor in the Department of Engineering Education at The Ohio State University. She earned her B.S. and M.S. degrees in Civil Engineering from Ohio State and earned her Ph.D. in Engineering Education from Virginia Tech. Her research interests focus on the intersection between motivation and identity, first-year engineering programs, mixed methods research, and innovative approaches to teaching. She is the principal investigator for the Research on Identity and Motivation in Engineering (RIME) Collaborative.

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Cassondra Wallwey The Ohio State University

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Cassie Wallwey, PhD is a Collegiate Assistant Professor in the Department of Engineering Education at Virginia Tech. Her research interests include studying effective feedback in engineering and mathematics courses, improving engineering student motivation and success, and understanding exclusion in engineering to fight its weed-out culture. Cassie has her Ph.D. in Engineering Education from Ohio State University, where she worked as a Graduate Research Assistant and Graduate Teaching Associate, primarily teaching first-year engineering and engineering mathematics. She also has both a B.S. and M.S. in Biomedical Engineering from Wright State, where she also worked as a Graduate Teaching Associate for an engineering mathematics course.

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Faculty researchers have long been siloed into their own areas of research expertise, such that collaborations often occur with researchers in the same or adjacent fields. Yet, the challenges facing the world require solutions that do not exist within one disciplinary silo and require creative solutions that reach across the boundaries of science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics (STEAM) disciplines. One way creativity is sparked is through interdisciplinary collaborations. When conflicting perspectives on a given topic are presented, people seek to overcome these conflicts and through this process, creative solutions can emerge. However, interdisciplinary collaborations are often complicated due to differences regarding disciplinary languages, lack of interdisciplinary training, lack of incentives for faculty to participate in interdisciplinary research, and other factors. Therefore, we sought to understand how early career faculty researchers could overcome these challenges and benefit from interdisciplinary collaborations in order to be well-positioned to meet the demands of society’s grand challenges.

Using a case study methodology, we explored how faculty researchers from disparate disciplines built interdisciplinary collaborations. Cohorts of 3-5 faculty researchers from a variety of STEAM disciplines, including engineering, science, education, and the arts, were grouped together and tasked with a series of challenges. These challenges included presenting in an interactive way at a science museum, designing a hackathon challenge for high school students, and/or presenting at a science pub. The cohort members worked together to find the similarities between their disciplines to create coherent presentations in each of these events. To support their collaboration, we provided each cohort with a theme (energy, space, movement, or elements) that they could use to motivate the convergence of their disparate disciplines. Interviews were conducted before and after each event with each participant. Transcripts were analyzed longitudinally to understand the process of interdisciplinary collaboration and how the cohorts converged over time. Our analysis focused on the strategies cohorts used, their motivations for collaboration, their identities as researchers, and their desire to participate in interdisciplinary collaborations throughout their career.

The results presented in this paper are a set of recommendations and tips for early career STEAM faculty researchers to engage in interdisciplinary collaborations. Recommendations are based on common themes that emerged across cohorts from the longitudinal case study analysis, such as the impact of incorporating an arts discipline in STEM, overcoming imposter syndrome, and using storytelling techniques to communicate across disciplines. The results provide implications for early career faculty researchers interested in bridging the divide between STEAM disciplines to develop creative solutions to the world’s grand challenges and provide a baseline for future research on interdisciplinary STEAM collaborations.

Desing, R. M., & Clark, A., & Kajfez, R. L., & Wallwey, C. (2023, June), Work in Progress: Recommendations for Early Career Faculty to Engage in Interdisciplinary STEAM Collaborations Paper presented at 2023 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Baltimore , Maryland. 10.18260/1-2--44344

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