The STRIDE research group focuses what factors influence diverse students to choose engineering and stay in engineering through their careers and how different experiences within the practice and culture of engineering foster or hinder belongingness and identity development. In our work we explore multiple intersections of students' identities including gender idenity, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, first-generation status, disability, and other social identities to understand how diverse students navigate their engineering pathways. We also examine how students "latent diversity" or their underlying affective and cognitive differences that provide potential sources for innovation but are not visible. The concept of latent diversity focuses on the alternative mindsets and experiences that students bring with them into an engineering degree program rather than on their demographics. In doing so, it takes an asset-based approach rather than focusing on the deficits of students on which some research in diversity has focused (e.g., deficiencies in academic preparation, less understanding of high education systems, lack of support systems, etc.). Students, regardless of background, bring diverse and unique ways of thinking and ideas to the table. If engineering culture privileges particular ways of thinking or being as what it means to be an engineer, it may be alienating for latently diverse students. Recognizing students’ attitudes, mindsets, and innovation as important provides a way to support all students in engineering. More recently, we have begun to focus on engineering workforce development by translating fundamental research insights on students' pathways and identity devleopment into outreach and professional development efforts and research-based interventions. Our active, funded projects are listed below.
CAREER: Actualizing Latent Diversity: Building Innovation through Engineering Students' Identity Development (Completed)
The U.S. needs new and innovative engineering solutions to meet the global demands of our growing economy. However, most engineers graduating from engineering degree programs are more alike in their problem solving approaches, ways of thinking, and engineering identities than different in their skills as innovative thinkers. Students who do not conform to this mold of "being an engineer" are often alienated from engineering, do not develop engineering identities, and leave engineering, which reduces the much-needed human potential for innovation. The overarching goal of this project funded by NSF EEC (1554057) is to characterize how latently diverse students experience the culture of engineering and negotiate their identities as engineers. To answer these questions, a national survey data from first-year engineering students will be collected and latent diversity will be characterized by using topological data analysis. From these results, longitudinal narrative interviews with latently diverse students will be used to understand students’ identity development how this identity development as is supported or hindered by their classroom experiences and institutional structure. The integrated education plan will implement pedagogies to support the development of latently diverse students in first-year engineering programs (a critical time point at which many talented students are lost from engineering programs). By directly providing engineering educators and leadership with a new understanding of ways to support these latently diverse students, and by revealing unexpected problems and functional solutions in the way these students navigate engineering degree programs, the integrated research and educational plan will directly impact the educational experiences of thousands of engineering students to develop innovative, rather than homogeneous, engineers.
Learn more about the concept of latent diversity:
Engineering Research Center for Innovative and Strategic Transformation of Alkane Resources - CISTAR
Allison Godwin is the Engineering Workforce Development Director for CISTAR (EEC 1647722). CISTAR is led by Purdue University, with partners at Northwestern University, the University of Notre Dame, the University of New Mexico, and the University of Texas-Austin.The United States proven reserves of natural gas have nearly doubled in the past 15 years as a result of technologies to extract gas from shale formations. A sizeable fraction of these reserves are located in remote areas. Currently, the infrastructure and economics are not favorable for transporting the Light Hydrocarbon (LHC) alkane constituents (methane, ethane, propane, and butanes) of this "stranded" gas to centralized plants where they can be processed to valuable liquid fuels and chemical intermediates. The NSF Engineering Research Center for Innovative and Strategic Transformation of Alkane Resources (CISTAR) aims to provide basic research understanding in the areas of catalysis, separations, and process design needed to develop small, modular, local, and highly-networked processing plants that will convert LHCs from remote shale resources to liquid chemicals and transportation fuels, thereby economically utilizing resources that would otherwise be underutilized. To this end, CISTAR?s overarching goal is to provide the technological innovation and a diverse highly-trained workforce to realize the potential of shale gas as a lower-carbon-footprint "bridge fuel" to a future sustainable energy economy.
The Engineering Workforce Development pillar of CISTAR focuses on creating a technically excellent and inclusive community of hydrocarbon systems researchers, learners, and teachers through new course and program offerings, best practice mentoring, and growth in key professional skills. CISTAR is designing an education program for its graduate and undergraduate students and creating programming for pre-college students and teachers to develop inclusive pathways to careers in STEM fields and intentionally prepare students to be leaders in the global energy economy. The EWD pillar utilizes the theory of identity-based motivation to promote these skills and ways for all students (middle school to doctoral) to see themselves as active participants in the hydrocarbon workforce in order to achieve a robust system of engineering education and pathways.
Collaborative Research: Course-based Adaptations of an Ecological Belonging Intervention to Broaden Participation in Engineering at Scale
The UBelong Collaborative brings together researchers from Purdue University (Allison Godwin), University of Pittsburgh (Linda DeAngelo, Kevin Binning, and Chris Schunn), and University of California, Irvine (Natascha Buswell) on this National Science Foundation project (DUE 2111114/2111513). This project uses an ecological-belonging intervention approach that only requires a one-class or one-recitation session to implement and has been shown to erase long-standing achievement gaps by gender and race/ethnicity in several introductory STEM courses. However, while simple, the intervention cannot involve a fixed script for different university and course contexts. Rather, the content of the intervention needs to be customized to the local context in order to address the specific concerns students have in that specific context. This project brings a highly interdisciplinary team across three strategically-selected universities with the goal of developing an approach to identify which 1st and 2nd year courses need this intervention, reveal student concerns in that course, adapt the intervention to address those concerns, and address other pragmatic constraints of how that course is taught. This systematic approach also includes processes for onboarding all the instructors of the given course. In answering a set of seven core research questions, the project intends to expand knowledge about 1) where (on which outcome variables), when (in which contexts, for which students), and why the ecological belonging intervention has positive effects, and 2) the extent to which this intervention on its own has measurable impacts on the overall problem of representation in the larger challenge of representation within the large engineering pathways that have struggled with representation. This kind of foundational knowledge is critical to making decisions about when to apply the intervention as well as providing important insights into how to apply the intervention.
Collaborative Research: Assessing Empathetic Formation in Engineering Design
Empathy is essential for identifying, designing for, and meeting user needs and can motivate engineers to meaningfully engage with and respond to diverse viewpoints and values. Thus, educators need tools for developing empathy in engineers. Yet, measuring empathy is challenging because it manifests uniquely in different contexts. This NSF-sponsored project (2104782/2104792/2104979) brings together a team from Purdue, PI Justin Hess and Allison Godwin; Iowa State University, Nick Fila; and University at Buffalo, Corey Schimpf to develop an instrument that is capable of capturing how empathy manifests across different disciplinary and design contexts throughout the design cycle. Our primary objective is to refine this instrument and to ensure its validity, reliability, and fairness for assessing empathic formation in undergraduate engineering design. We will integrate and account for these perspectives in the expansion of the instrument, thus ensuring that the instrument captures a diverse group of instructor perspectives and needs. Thus, this study will support a critical need for a valid tool for assessing empathy in engineering design.