ENE Professor Alice Pawley Receives NSF CAREER Award

Alice Pawley
Alice Pawley

The study's aim: to determine why some groups are chronically underrepresented in engineering degree programs, using research tools that have as strengths learning from small numbers of participants. To address this issue, Pawley and her research team will use narratives to understand how underrepresented engineering students describe interactions with their educational institutions and which institutional factors affect persistence and success. The project will develop and then disseminate tools based on design research concepts of "personas" (short biographies of aggregated student data) and "informance" (helping designers learn through performance about the experiences of marginalized design users) to help policymakers learn how institutions can evolve to better address and support the experiences of underrepresented groups.

The broader significance and importance of this project will be to provide new insights into the perplexing and persistent problem of low representation of white women and people of color in engineering degree programs. Pawley plans to focus on both primarily white institutions and minority-serving institutions to address questions on structural differences, using a narrative approach. Should the project be successful, it will inform policy decisions within engineering schools and potentially at other higher education administrative levels as well. The project thus has potential broad impact on the knowledge base used to make decisions and practice.