This project is seeking to increase the participation of Native Americans within the engineering professoriate through better understanding of how and why Native American engineering students choose to pursue (or not) an academic career path. The project will address this issue from an institutional perspective, elucidating the motivations for and barriers to Native American student recruitment and Native American faculty hiring. Nationwide, the numbers of Native American engineering faculty are extremely small. According to ASEE data (2012) there were approximately 60 faculty who identified as Native American over all ranks out of a total population of over 25,000. There is significant attrition in the student numbers from undergraduate to graduate education levels. By documenting barriers and catalysts for these students pursuit of doctoral degrees, this project will significantly enhance the ability to increase the diversity of engineering faculties, providing visible role models for Native American students.
Specifically, this project will use case studies and interviews to identify and document the impediments that prevent Native American students from earning advanced degrees. A similar qualitative analysis will help understand why students who do earn graduate degrees do not pursue faculty careers. They will create a replicable program model consisting of recruitment workshops to increase awareness of, and preparation for engineering undergraduate and graduate studies. Additionally they will develop and implement a mentorship program pairing Native American doctoral students with a trio of mentors that will support their professional development and successful transition to an academic career. The mentoring program is particularly strong as it incorporates an assistant professor, a full professor and a tribal community mentor who has earned an advanced degree. The intellectual merit of this project lies in its ability to improve understanding of how to increase the participation of Native Americans on engineering faculties. An ethnically diverse faculty provides a stronger and richer learning environment for all students. The broader impact of this project is in its outreach to Native American students, both pre-college and undergraduate, to increase their knowledge and preparation for engineering studies.
National Science Foundation, Division of Engineering Education and Centers