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Work In Progress: The Benefits and Challenges of Faculty Development through Interdisciplinary Public Outreach

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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 Division (FDD) Technical Session 5

Tagged Division

Faculty Development Division (FDD)

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Paper Authors


Cassondra Wallwey Virginia Tech

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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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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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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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This WIP paper will highlight emergent findings from a research project related to the faculty development benefits and challenges that arose when STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics) researchers engaged in interdisciplinary public outreach events. With increasing calls for interdisciplinary research teams and task forces, the need for faculty to develop their interdisciplinary networks and cross-discipline communication skills is at an all-time high. Similarly, recent global events and crises have highlighted the need to increase and improve the publics’ engagement and understanding of science and technology along with their uses/impacts on our shared global experiences and daily lives.

To address these growing needs, STEAM researchers at a public research-intensive university in the Midwest volunteered as participants for a research project where they engaged in variety of interdisciplinary public engagement opportunities in the local community. These researchers were organized into multi-disciplinary cohorts around a theme that worked together to prepare presentations, activities, and challenges for public engagement venues such as hackathons, science museum events, science pubs or cafes, and community art walks. Members of the supervising research team provided training on informal research communication and engagement with public audiences and interdisciplinary communication and collaboration while also observing cohort member interactions and deliverables.

Interviews with each cohort member revealed that both the interdisciplinary teamwork and problem solving as well as the exposure to a breadth of public engagement and communication opportunities had numerous benefits to their development as faculty members. Participation in the research project informed and improved their teaching practices, expanded their professional networks, inspired new research collaborations, and greatly improved communication skills outside of one’s own discipline. However, these development benefits did not come without challenge. The time demands of the interdisciplinary public outreach training and events paired with the workload of junior faculty was noted as a difficulty, as was the lack of tangible deliverables that could be referenced in a tenure review dossier.

These emergent findings from this research left our research team with many questions and considerations. While the notable outcomes that emerged from participant interviews tangentially related to the development of teaching and research – two important aspects of receiving tenure – there still emerged a tension between participants’ engagement in this program and how it related to what ‘counted’ toward earning tenure. We aim to report these emergent findings in a more detailed manner and discuss 1) future directions for research on the wider benefits and faculty development opportunities embedded within interdisciplinary outreach and public science communication as well as 2) how to combat the challenges of limited bandwidth and a lack of recognition of faculty development benefits through a round-table discussion presentation format.

Wallwey, C., & Desing, R. M., & Kajfez, R. L. (2023, June), Work In Progress: The Benefits and Challenges of Faculty Development through Interdisciplinary Public Outreach Paper presented at 2023 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Baltimore , Maryland. 10.18260/1-2--44365

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