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Research Spending & Results

Award Detail

  • Jia G Liang
  • Stacey E Tucker-Kulesza
Award Date:09/01/2020
Estimated Total Award Amount: $ 211,254
Funds Obligated to Date: $ 211,254
  • FY 2020=$211,254
Start Date:09/15/2020
End Date:08/31/2023
Transaction Type:Grant
Awarding Agency Code:4900
Funding Agency Code:4900
CFDA Number:47.041
Primary Program Source:040100 NSF RESEARCH & RELATED ACTIVIT
Award Title or Description:COLLABORATIVE RESEARCH: We are thriving: Challenging negative discourse through voices of women in project teams
Federal Award ID Number:2015688
DUNS ID:929773554
Parent DUNS ID:041146432
Program:EDA-Eng Diversity Activities
Program Officer:
  • Christine Grant
  • (703) 292-7107

Awardee Location

Awardee Cong. District:01

Primary Place of Performance

Organization Name:Kansas State University
Street:1601 Vattier Street
Cong. District:01

Abstract at Time of Award

The goal of this research is to understand women who are thriving (i.e., developing and succeeding) in engineering student project teams and undergraduate engineering programs. Project teams are extra-curricular, student-led, engineering design teams. One important aspect of this research is that these thriving women are encouraged to speak for themselves, describe their own experiences, and tell their own stories. Another is the intentional focus on women who are doing well, feeling positive about themselves as engineers and about their professional futures. Currently, the number of women who pursue engineering degrees remains low, around 20%, despite over 40 years of research. Previous researchers have provided valuable frameworks to explain the low participation and retention of women, but these projects have focused on what may be wrong -- why women do not select engineering or why they decide to leave engineering. While important, this type of research may inadvertently encourage women to avoid engineering as it may propagate the message that they “do not belong”. This research adopts a novel approach to explore a new direction toward understanding women’s experiences in engineering and employs an asset-based approach in its attempt to identify what women find rewarding. Therefore, a fresh and quite possibly transformative understanding of women’s engagement in engineering is anticipated. The primary deliverable will be a perspective and specific actionable items that can be adopted by university engineering programs and engineering companies that will encourage greater participation of women in engineering, and also suggest how those programs and companies might create an environment in which women can thrive. The broader impacts of this research include (1) increasing gender equity in engineering; (2) engaging a diverse range of women participants; and (3) suggesting alternative pathways toward engineering degrees and careers in engineering. Each of these broader impacts will contribute to a long-term goal of changing the negative discourse regarding the persistence of the underrepresentation of women and minorities in engineering. This research asks and answers the research question: what are the personal and institutional factors that facilitate women who thrive in engineering student project teams? The research approach is to conduct a series of three semi-structured interviews with women project team leaders at Kansas State University, Cornell University, and University of Nevada Las Vegas. These partnering universities vary by location, size, type, and ability to attract and retain women in engineering. The interviews include their life history or how they understand their life-experiences in relation to engineering; learning journey or how their experiences in project teams has led them to identify as engineers; and PhotoVoice, an approach which places students behind a camera, such that they can document and explain those project team experiences to others and in their own terms. The aim is to learn about the positive experiences of these women, identified and explained by the women themselves, thereby enabling a better understanding and appreciation of those experiences. Additional interviews with women at other institutions, engineering leadership, and project team faculty advisers will inform the understanding of the roles project teams play in broadening engagement in engineering. These interview data, together with secondary, document-based contextual data, will be analyzed to identify positive engineering experiences and then will be used to create a theoretical framework for encouraging thriving. The research offers the prospect for a new, targeted and more positive focus regarding women’s participation in engineering. The results of this research will be included on a website created by an undergraduate student project team to maximize dissemination, long-term accessibility, and project sustainability. This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

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