Alice’s research program in under 4 minutes

Curious about our research projects? Here’s a quick YouTube introduction.

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ADVANCE-Purdue Research Team to host fall open house

Local Purdue colleagues are invited to attend our fall ADVANCE Research Open House on October 19. It will be held from 4-5 in the Elm and Walnut rooms of the West Lafayette Public Library, at 208 W. Columbia St in West Lafayette. Please note there is free public parking across the street from the library, and kids are always welcome both to the library and to our open house. We will have some light refreshments to share.

People are welcome to drop in and chat with ADVANCE Research Team members Dina Banerjee, Jordana Hoegh, Marisol Mercado Santiago, and Alice Pawley, or otherwise comment about our ADVANCE research projects, and will be invited to learn about potentially participating in our research studies, including our Academic Career Pathways study where we listen to people tell us their career stories, or through our Institutional Ethnography studies on Purdue’s parental leave policy or the colleges’ promotion and tenure policies.

In particular, we are interested in discussing alternative possible publication models, where people who contribute their stories to a research study as participants also get research credit for the research. If you are interested in discussing this with us, we particularly hope you’ll drop by.

We hope to see you on October 19!

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CAREER proposal funded on “learning from small numbers”

I’m thrilled and honored to share with you that the National Science Foundation has funded my CAREER proposal, titled “Learning from Small Numbers: Using the personal narratives of underrepresented students to promote institutional change in engineering education.”

Over the last three decades, educators in engineering have made massive efforts to increase the numbers of women and people of color in engineering undergraduate programs. While numbers have improved, they have stalled at dispiritingly low levels. This project argues that most previous studies and interventions have been hampered by three challenges: (1) they tend to depend on statistical methods of generalization to understand the experiences of underrepresented people, despite the fact that the numbers of such people are usually too low to make analysis of them statistically significant; (2) these studies tend to result in interventions not in the structure of institutions, but in the behavior of students themselves, and in their adaptation to their institutions; and (3) such studies and interventions usually examine women and people of color at predominantly white educational institutions (PWIs), and thus fail to focus on institutions which have showed relatively better success.

This project responds to each of these challenges in turn. Rather than study students statistically, it will import research tools designed by sociologists to examine small numbers, in particular narrative analyses; rather than using its findings to shape student behavior and communicate with students, it will use them to investigate institutional structure and communicate with administrators; and rather than focusing on PWIs which have historically served such populations poorly, it will also include minority serving institutions (MSIs) allowing it to uncover not only problems, but also already-functioning solutions.

The research questions of this proposal are:

  1. How do underrepresented undergraduate engineering students describe their interactions with educational institutions through personal narratives?
  2. What institutional factors do these narratives reveal that affect the educational persistence and success of white women and students of color in undergraduate engineering educational institutions?

This research will use personal narratives about engineering education contributed by white women and students of color in undergraduate programs in order to understand how the structure of their educational institution assists and hinders their educational success. These narratives will be analyzed both deductively (informed by sociological theories of institutional structure and critical intersectional theories of gender and race) and inductively (deploying feminist and decolonizing methodological strategies and theories) to propose a new theoretical framework of ‘gendered’ and ‘raced’ institutions in the context of engineering education that can be incorporated into researchers’ and practitioners’ ways of understanding ‘underrepresentation.’

The educational plan for this project will prompt engineering leadership to ‘learn from small numbers.’ The plan uses tools borrowed from design research—‘personas’ and ‘informance’—to help department chairs, curriculum committee chairs and deans at PWIs envision data-driven responses to the question, “If my institution was designed around the experiences of women and people of color, what would it look like?” This exercise will provide engineering education leadership with new conceptual tools with which to reconsider the underrepresentation of women and people of color, and new strategies to increase their representation.

Intellectual Merit: This work will draw on accepted critical, feminist and decolonizing methods and theories used in education, sociology and women’s studies to construct an innovative theoretical framework and research method that will contribute to engineering education researchers’ understanding of the problem of underrepresentation. At the same time, it will advance our understanding of how institutional structure impacts underrepresented engineering students’ experience, and thereby open up an important new direction of research in diversity and underrepresentation in engineering education.

Broader Impact: The focus and participants of this engineering education research proposal are women and students of color in undergraduate engineering education programs, and the educational plan is directly oriented towards fundamental improvement of engineering educational institutions themselves. By directly providing engineering educators and leadership with a new understanding of the ways that white women and students of color interact with educational institutions, and by revealing unexpected problems and functional solutions, the integrated research and educational plan will directly impact the educational experiences of underrepresented engineering students at PWIs, which currently educate the largest numbers of engineering undergraduates in the US.

The award information can be found here.

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Group member Srinivasan graduates to being first RIFE alumnae

We are so sad that group postdoc Saranya Srinivasan will be moving on to other things back home in India in August. Members in town toasted to new things for her with gelato earlier this week. We’ll miss you, Saranya! But on the other hand, we will be glad to have a friendly place to stay when we come visit India sometime… 🙂

Photo of 6 RIFE group members

RIFE Group after Greyhouse gelato

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Marisol presents at the VII ESOCITE Conference

I just returned from attending the “VII Jornadas Latinoamericanas de Estudios Sociales de la Ciencia y la Tecnología (ESOCITE)” (VII Latin American Conference of Social Studies of Science and Technology). This conference was held in Buenos Aires, Argentina, from July 20 to 23. I presented my paper “Toward an Indigenized Engineering Education: Andean Peasant Technologies as Engineering Education Resources for Andean Peoples.”

[Presentation in English]      [Presentación en español]

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ASEE 2010: Using the Emergent Methodology of Domain Analysis to Answer Complex Research Questions.

As engineering education research matures, engineering education researchers seek to answer increasingly complex questions rooted in social situations, such as “What is engineering in various communities?” and “How does engineering work happen at various stages of professional development?”   The desire to ask such questions leads the community to develop or incorporate diverse methods that help the community to answer the complex question. The purpose of this paper is to present to the engineering education community an introduction to domain analysis, an ethnographic method developed within anthropology designed to answer these complex questions.

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ASEE 2010: Modeling the career pathways of women STEM faculty through oral histories and participatory research methods.

Women increasingly earn advanced degrees in science, technology, and mathematics (STEM), yet remain underrepresented among STEM faculty. Much of the existing research on this underrepresentation relies on “chilly climate” and “pipeline” theoretical models to explain this phenomenon. However, the extent to which these models follow women’s actual career pathways has been undertheorized. Further, alternative metaphors may more aptly describe the career pathways of women STEM faculty. In our broader research project, we examine the ways women’s career pathways into STEM faculty positions are similar to and/or different from chilly climate and pipeline models, and if they vary based on race and/or ethnicity. At present, we focus on the ways oral histories and participatory research methods allow us to model the career pathways of women STEM faculty.

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ASEE 2010: Institutional Ethnography: A research method to investigate the work-life experiences of women faculty members in STEM disciplines

Women and people of color continue to be underrepresented among engineering faculty. A diverse engineering faculty body is important because it increases the likelihood of equitable hiring practices and reduces the likelihood of a hostile workplace climate, among other reasons. In turn, research hypothesizes that a diverse engineering faculty body will attract, recruit, and retain diverse students to the engineering profession. While there are a bevy of research papers published every year to address this persistent concern, there are few new or innovative ideas informing our theoretical groundwork for understanding these underrepresentations.

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ASEE 2010: “The image of a woman engineer:” Women’s identities as engineers as portrayed by historical newspapers and magazines, 1930-1970

The Society of Women Engineers’ National Collection is an archive with rich potential for investigating the historical story of women’s identities as engineers. Filled with newspaper and magazine clippings, oral histories of pioneer women engineers, and SWE’s own institutional history, these archives allow us to see how women engineers were skillfully positioned as acceptably feminine, despite their peculiar profession. Continue reading

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A great 2010 ASEE

We have returned to Purdue from a great and productive ASEE conference, where we got good feedback and met lots of folks interested in our research and with their own interesting work. We’ll be posting our slides from our 4 presentations here in the next few days, so be sure to check back soon!

Image of RIFE group members Banerjee, Pawley, Nelson, and Hoegh

RIFE group members Banerjee, Pawley, Nelson, and Hoegh

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