In the final session, workshop participants explored opportunities for societies to contribute to and reformulate the evaluation of engineering faculty impact.
First they discussed recognition of faculty work through prizes and awards. Dianne Chong began by citing the impact criteria for the NAE’s Bernard M. Gordon Prize for Innovation in Engineering and Technology Education:
- How does [the nominee] advance the process of developing engineering leadership skills and attitudes? Consider communication skills, teamwork, hands-on experience, innovative capacity, inventiveness and drive, interdisciplinary focus, and the ability to access, share, and interpret large volumes of information.
- Describe demonstrated effects on students (e.g., active engagement in elective student design opportunities, student retention in the engineering degree program, leadership exhibited in the program, proportion of students who pursue advanced engineering education, proportion of students who pursue careers in industry), student evaluations, formal and informal assessments, results of fundraising and student enrollment efforts, the extent of diffusion in the home institution, and peer recognition of the paradigm, its uniqueness, and its excellence of execution.
These kinds of measures could lead to broad and thorough evaluations of a faculty member’s impact.
Teri Reed, immediate past president of Women in Engineering ProActive Network (WEPAN), also described the network’s awards. WEPAN’s goal is to increase the number and advance the prominence of diverse communities of women in engineering, and its awards honor individuals, programs, and organizations for accomplishments that support that mission. Honorees demonstrate extraordinary service, significant achievement, model programs, and exemplary work environments that promote a culture of inclusion and the success of women in engineering.
WEPAN’s Inclusive Culture and Equity Award honors an individual or group that has developed and implemented inclusive practices, policies, or initiatives that promote positive change with regard to the climate or culture for women in engineering fields at their institution. Nominees must provide evidence of written policies or established practices that facilitate the full participation and career advancement of women faculty in engineering. These policies and practices should demonstrate inclusion and success at many levels in the institution
for women from diverse backgrounds, especially those in underrepresented groups (African American, Latina, or Native American) in engineering.
The WEPAN Leader in Engineering Education Award honors faculty, groups, or individuals who have created new pedagogical methods, course frameworks, and/or effective teaming practices to engage and create an inclusive environment for engineering undergraduate students. WEPAN also presents the following faculty awards:
- Advocates and Allies Award (male faculty/leaders)
- Betty Vetter Award for Research (faculty/researchers)
- Women in Engineering Initiative Award (programs)
- Industry Trailblazer Award
- Strategic Partner Award (other societies)
- Founders Award (faculty/staff/industry/researchers/leaders)
- Bevlee A. Watford Inclusive Excellence Award (faculty/leaders)
- President’s Award (faculty/staff/researchers/programs)
Chong cited many other societies that offer faculty awards, including the following:
American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA)
- Faculty Advisor Award
- J. Leland Atwood Award
- Abe Zarem Educator Award
- Bradley Stoughton Award for Young Teachers
- Albert Easton White Distinguished Teacher Award
Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME)
- Distinguished Faculty Advisor
Society of Women Engineers (SWE)
- Distinguished Engineering Educator Award
The Minerals, Metals & Materials Society (TMS)
- Julia and Johannes Weertman Educator Award
Chong also noted that ABET has initiated an innovation award that recognizes vision and commitment to challenge the status quo in technical education.
Some of the definitions of “impact” used by these awards are:
- “recognized for his/her role in guiding and mentoring the student”
- “recognizes and fosters excellence in the teaching of [subject]…to encourage young teachers in the field”
- “recognizes long and devoted service in teaching…and an unusual ability to inspire and impart enthusiasm to students.”
However, few awards are explicit about impact, she acknowledged, and some societies do not offer awards for engineering education excellence or impact. In addition, one drawback of awards is that they may not receive enough nominations.
Industry gives out educator awards, though Chong thought that such awards had become less common and sometimes not enough nominations are received. But industry cares deeply about the students who emerge from
engineering education programs. “We need to collaborate with academia to increase student understanding of what industry wants, and figure out a way to identify people who help bridge that gap and reward them appropriately.”
Bevlee Watford noted that nominations can be difficult to secure if awards do not coincide with faculty reward systems. “The problem is that a lot of these awards that we’re classifying as [recognizing] impact are not viewed as important, and if they’re not viewed as important then why should, especially, junior faculty members take the time to submit an application?” The narrative needs to change so that faculty members view these awards as worth the time and effort to pursue, she said.
In response to the comment about the lack of nominations, Steven Brown (Loyola University) suggested that soliciting more broadly will also expand the impact and prestige of the awards.
Darryl Dickerson endorsed the idea of making the awards much more visible. Additional communication to departments, schools, and colleges would let them know more about awards that reflect broader conceptions of impact, which could in turn increase nominations. When someone wins an award, a press release should go out to let people and organizations know about the award and why it is important. Following up on that idea, a participant noted that a powerful way to get the message out could be through the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) Deans Council.
Each professional society could establish an award reflecting impacts that are important to it, said Ramana Pidaparti (University of Georgia). This would both increase the number of awards and target them toward impact. An example in this case would be AIChE’s 35 Under 35 Award.
Dora Renaud (Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers) noted that her society has a single award for educator of the year in higher education, but that “that will definitely increase.” She said she was also going to ask faculty members what criteria they would like to see for awards established in the future.
From this review of awards offered by professional societies, the discussion transitioned to examination of the roles of professional societies in shaping evaluations of faculty impact. The moderator of the final workshop session, Harriet Nembhard, noted that measures of impact are essentially the outputs of faculty time and effort, so attention needs to focus on these. A focus on students to measure impact is broader than the traditional measures of research, teaching, and service. Another measure might be response and adaptation to technological change.
An underlying theme of the discussion was the tension between the need to quantify impact while recognizing its inevitable variability. As an example of a way to define and quantify impact, Watford described the ASEE’s National Outstanding Teaching Award; its nomination criteria include measures of impact such as the abilities to communicate broad and accurate subject area knowledge, create a feeling of harmony with students, meet difficulties with poise, and conduct scholarship on teaching, as well as demonstrated effectiveness in course and curriculum development, evidence of laboratory or other facility development, and authorship of instructional material or a text that enhances the student process. Measuring research support or publications is relatively straightforward, she noted, “but if we don’t figure out a way to say, ‘This person has had impact in this area, and this is how that impact is defined or this is a rubric by which we can evaluate the impact,’ then we’re left in a very subjective situation.”
James Hill pointed out that awards are given by organizations for many kinds of accomplishments, suggesting the diversity of possible impacts. But, as other workshop participants suggested, perhaps the criteria and citations of those awards could be examined to provide exemplars of faculty impact.
Anastasios Lyrintzis pointed out that another form of recognition is to be named a fellow, associate fellow, or emerging leader of a society. Societies could have an effect on promotion and tenure if this form of recognition were included as a measure of impact.
The ability to secure funding for collaborative efforts between universities and industry is another measure of impact. For example, AIChE organized a coalition to pursue a multimillion-dollar award to set up a new institution through the National Network of Manufacturing Institutes program. As Michelle Bryner (AIChE) noted, this is a way for professional societies to take the lead in an area with significant impact for many faculty members. Such awards also encourage and enable faculty members to navigate in spaces where they have not previously done so.
Election to the National Academy of Engineering is a process with difficulties comparable to promotion
and tenure decisions, and workshop participants spent a few moments discussing the similarities. Don Giddens explained that “many more really outstanding people are nominated than get elected, for a variety of reasons.” All the nominees are extremely accomplished, but their impact can take quite different forms. “Impact isn’t something you can write a formula for,” he said, although he allowed that professional societies could provide examples of impact to guide RPT decisions.
Several university-based participants spoke up to report methods for recognizing faculty impact at their institution. Hill reported that his university’s promotion and tenure criteria and descriptions do not define impact narrowly, giving the candidate an opportunity to describe different kinds of impact, even “something that we’ve never thought of. In my opinion, that’s a plus.”
Margaret Pinnell described a recently completed process to develop a strength-based approach to evaluation at her institution. The university has created a rubric to relate various kinds of impact to research, teaching, and service; the process of mapping impacts onto these categories differs by department and applicant.
Maureen Linden suggested that young professionals be taught how to construct a narrative of their impact. They would thus participate in defining and justifying the impact in their promotion and tenure package.
Another approach, cited by Kenneth Cunefare, is to create exemplars of impact, as has been done at his institution. RPT committees have been trained on these exemplars so they have a common understanding of what impact looks like. As part of its RPT coaching process, Georgia Tech taught junior faculty how to write their packages so that the committees could assess their impact against their goals.
Lyrintzis described the process at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University for annual reviews of all assistant and associate professors, which he said was also very helpful for full professors. Through what he called “gentle leadership,” faculty members were educated about the criteria for promotion and tenure and how to measure impact, which not only prepared them to vote on their colleagues but also helped them view their own work in a new light.
Nembhard asked what professional societies can do to accelerate and expand on these types of initiatives. Could they exert an influence by, for example, disseminating exemplars or models of impacts that institutions could use in modifying their RPT criteria and procedures?
Dickerson agreed with this approach, and added that professional societies could be involved in many types of professional development pathways, including from assistant to associate or from associate to full professor. Rubrics developed with the assistance of professional societies could help establish the level of impact that faculty members need to achieve if they are to progress, which would also help the institution define impact. “It gives them some examples that they can provide to the assistant professors who are coming through, to say, ‘This is what impact can look like for you if you want to receive a promotion.’”
Nembhard pointed out that conferences would be a logical place to engage in these discussions. Sessions on building a narrative or dossier could be co-led by people in industry so that academic aspirants know how to roadmap their work, especially given the complexities associated with the rapid rate of technological change. Similarly, professional societies could show both established and newer professionals how to market themselves to current and future employers, observed Linden. Established professionals could be taught how to make the case that they remain relevant, are considered a top performer, and should be compensated accordingly.
Nembhard mentioned competitions and what she called “supercurricular activities.” This is an area where societies might be especially well positioned to have an impact on education by defining, recognizing, rewarding, and funding such initiatives.
AIChE does that through its Outstanding Student Chapter Awards, said David Silverstein (University of Kentucky and chair, Chemical Engineering Technology Operating Council, AIChE). After receipt of an award, “it’s up to the awardee to make the case for impact back to the institution,” although the fact that the award comes with industry sponsorship conveys external recognition of impact. He saw opportunities for professional societies to recognize faculty accomplishments other than research, and added that such recognition could apply for faculty at different stages of their career—with, for example, midcareer and lifetime achievement awards.
Professional societies can act as “honest brokers,” Lyrintzis said, to provide examples of which things are important and which can and should be measured. Measuring impact can be difficult, he acknowledged, but professional societies and universities can move together in this direction.
Watford pointed out that ASEE “has a huge amount that we can offer to help faculty identify the impact that they have had in the teaching and instructional arena. That’s what we do, so I see our role fairly clearly.”
Linden proposed that professional societies help faculty members with the dissemination of their work to broader audiences; for example, they can be included in a grant as partners in dissemination.
Monica Cox proposed four interlinked recommendations for professional societies to address the task of defining impact:
- Help professional communities exchange ideas and information across fields, including medicine, law, and others, by serving as liaisons among professions, fostering collaborative efforts, and enhancing disciplinary resources. Synthesize relevant information, annually or more often, so that societies can learn what others are doing to advance their disciplines and professions and whom to contact.
- Provide opportunities for people from industry to interact with, work with, and learn from those in academia, and vice versa. This could lead to collaborations and lifelong professional development on both sides.
- Create opportunities to take greater advantage of professors of practice. They could help colleges and universities think about what would attract someone who has not been in a classroom since college to engage with academia.
- Help all stakeholders adopt bigger and grander visions. “Whatever it is that you think you’re doing, you need to think a lot bigger,” Cox said. That might involve inviting focus groups of innovative millennials or people outside the discipline to come, analyze problems, and propose solutions.
Finally, Chong pointed out that even though the influence of engineering societies in engineering education is smaller today than in the past, they continue to have an important role. For example, they are responsible for creating the criteria and guidelines for academic program accreditation.
Concluded Chong: “We need a model where everybody works together to find that sweet spot in the middle where the impact occurs.”