Prof. Alice Pawley Receives NSF Faculty Early Career Development Award

Alice Pawley
One of six Purdue faculty winning this prestigious honor for 2010, Pawley will use her grant to study why some groups have remained chronically underrepresented in engineering degree programs.

Women represent about 18 percent of undergraduate engineering students – a proportion that hasn't changed much in two decades. Hiding in this overall fraction, however, is that the proportion of women is higher for all domestic ethnic minority groups than for white students. To address issues of underrepresentation while thinking about both gender and race, Pawley will use students' narratives to study how under-represented engineering students experience and interact with engineering educational institutions to better understand how different institutional structures affect persistence and success. The project will develop and then disseminate narrative-based tools, such as "personas" and "informances," to help policymakers learn how to better structure institutions to meet more needs of under-represented students. A persona is a fictional profile based on many students' narratives that can help policymakers learn from many stories at once, while an informance - a combination of the words information and performance – can help them embody students' experiences in engineering education. These tools may enable Pawley to teach policymakers to "learn from small numbers" of underrepresented engineering students, rather than through statistics alone.

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