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Work in Progress: Self-Advocacy as a Framework for Supporting Academic Success of Minoritized Graduate Students

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2022 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Minneapolis, MN

Publication Date

August 23, 2022

Start Date

June 26, 2022

End Date

June 29, 2022

Conference Session

Minorities in Engineering Division Technical Session 4

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Paper Authors


Carmen Lilley The University of Illinois at Chicago

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Carmen M. Lilley is an Associate Dean of Graduate Studies in the College of Engineering and an Associate Professor in Mechanical and Industrial Engineering (MIE). She received her Ph.D. in Theoretical and Applied Mechanics from Northwestern University in 2003 and joined the faculty at UIC in Fall of 2003. Her research is focused on two thrusts, engineering of quantum and nanoscale materials and studying the intersection of racial/ethnic and gender identities on the academic pathways of racially/ethnically minoritized (REM) students. Since 2019, Dr. Lilley is the Director of Graduate Studies for the MIE department.

Dr. Lilley is committed to promoting STEM undergraduate education, supporting REM PhD graduate students, and institutional transformation for increased diversity, equity and inclusion. This commitment is demonstrated in her NSF funded Innovations in Graduate Education program for translational research on self-advocacy to increase long-term academic success of REM PhD graduate students as well as undergraduate program development to increase recruitment and retention of Black students in STEM.

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Gregory Larnell

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This work in progress paper outlines the initial evaluation results for a professional development program that aims to educate minoritized graduate students in science, engineering, technology and math (STEM) in self-advocacy.

Self-advocacy is a framework developed by the American Counseling Association and the Learning Disabilities communities to educate students on skills that support academic success. A graduate professional development program has been created around the three educational pillars of self-advocacy namely, (i) Empowerment through leadership development, (ii) Promote self-awareness and (iii) Social Justice. For the first pillar of empowerment, minoritized STEM graduate students learn leadership skills to help them experience social integration and increase their sense of belonging in their peer-groups. For the second pillar, the students build community within the group. We also mentor and promote self-care in order to increase awareness of mental and physical well-being. Finally, we integrate teaching policies and social and historical contexts of STEM higher education.

Because of the pandemic, all events and outreach were pivoted to virtual platforms during year 1 (2021-22) of the program. Planning for events and outreach were virtual based on the continuously changing status of campus closures due to the pandemic last year into summer 2021. During the first year, 5 events here hosted in the program and for Fall 2022, there were four events (one in person and 3 hybrid) with 6 (mixed in person and virtual) planned in Spring 2022. We present the initial evaluation of the program and measures for sense of belonging and engineering/science identity, participation in leadership, and knowledge on policies. We also included open ended questions on whether students have applied any of the skills they have developed to self-advocate within their graduate programs and research groups. Thus, we hope to present the initial evaluation results on the program.

Lilley, C., & Larnell, G. (2022, August), Work in Progress: Self-Advocacy as a Framework for Supporting Academic Success of Minoritized Graduate Students Paper presented at 2022 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Minneapolis, MN.

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