Computing Applications Broadening participation

Academic Careers Workshop For Underrepresented Groups

A longitudinal evaluation of the application of knowledge, skills, and attitudes of ACW participants.
  1. Introduction
  2. Longitudinal Evaluation
  3. Results: Grant Proposal Submission and Awards
  4. Results: Promotion and Tenure
  5. Conclusion
  6. References
  7. Authors
  8. Figures
  9. Tables
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A primary goal of Academic Careers Workshop (ACW) is to mentor minorities and persons with disabilities about the academic career ladder. This goal is accomplished through an annual workshop spanning several days that includes a series of panels and professional development sessions. These components culminate in a comprehensive experience designed to facilitate the professional trajectories of advanced doctoral students, early-career Ph.D.’s, and tenure-track faculty from assistant to associate and full professor/senior administrators. Alternative careers for doctoral-level computer scientists are encouraged and supported as well.

Beginning in 2005, the ACW was sponsored by Texas A&M University. In 2007, NSF began funding the ACW. In 2010, the scope was expanded to include persons with disabilities.1 The 2012 Academic Careers Workshop (ACW) was organized by four groups: The Center for Minorities and People with Disabilities in Information Technology (CMD-IT); the Computing Alliance for Hispanic Serving Institutions (CAHSI); the Coalition to Diversify Computing (CDC); and the Alliance for Access to Computing Careers (Access-Computing). Among their goals, each organization is dedicated to increasing the number of people of color and those with disabilities in graduate degree programs and academic careers in computing fields.

Not surprisingly, racial/ethnic minorities and persons with disabilities remain underrepresented in computer science and information technology disciplines particularly among the ranks of tenure-track faculty at colleges and universities. The Survey of Earned Doctorates (SED) is conducted by National Opinion Research Center (NORC).2 According to the SED, 37 Black/African Americans and 48 Hispanics earned a doctorate degree in computer science in 2010. These numbers represent 2.2% and 2.9% respectively, of all of the computer science doctorates earned in the U.S. There were no reported computer science doctorates for American Indian/Alaskan Native or Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islanders for 2010. Persons with disabilities are underrepresented in science and engineering despite earning more doctorates in S & E fields than non-S & E fields since 2007 (see http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/wmpd/).

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Longitudinal Evaluation

The purpose of the longitudinal evaluation was to ascertain the longer-term (two to seven years) effects of the workshop and the application of knowledge, skills, and attitudes attendees have demonstrated after participating. We sought to answer questions, such as:

  • How did the participants apply the proposal writing components and to what extent has this yielded successful grant awards?
  • How did learning about both the readily apparent and subtler aspects (unwritten rules) of promotion and tenure affect participants’ understanding of the promotion and tenure process?

Methods. The evaluation consisted of a mixed-methods design that included focus groups and interviews conducted during the 2012 ACW and an online survey administered summer 2012 to ACW participants from 2005 through 2012.

Focus Groups and Interviews. Two focus groups (consisting of three past participants each) and eight individual interviews were conducted at the 2012 ACW. The interviews and focus groups consisted of 14 participants: 11 men and three women. Six were African American/Black; seven were Hispanic/Latino—heritages included Venezuelan, Cuban, Peruvian, Columbian, Puerto Rican, and Mexican; one was East Indian and also deaf (using sign language). Two were Ph.D. students; three were associate professors (two are preparing their dossiers for promotion to full professor); one was a fifth-year assistant professor who submitted his promotion and tenure dossier in August 2012; three are assistant professors; one was a full professor (he was also a full professor when he first came to the workshop as a participant); two were researchers; and two were administrators.

Survey. The survey was administered online during May and June 2012. Of 166 ACW participants who attended from 2005-2012 for whom an email address could be identified, 153 email messages with the survey link were delivered. Eighty-four ACW participants completed the survey, which is a response rate of 54.9%. Table 1 displays the number of ACW participants and the number and percent of survey respondents by ACW year.

The race/ethnicity of the ACW participants that responded to the survey is presented in the accompanying figure. The respondents were evenly split by gender: 41 (49%) female; 42 (51%) male. One individual did not respond to this item. Seven individuals reported having a disability (visual, hearing, mobility).

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Results: Grant Proposal Submission and Awards

Given the importance of grant productivity to the success of tenure-track faculty, the ACW addressed this topic by structuring mock review panels that included the review of funded and unfunded proposals. The interviews and focus groups revealed unanimous agreement that this component was particularly helpful. Specifically, it helped “demystify” the process and informed participants of the proposal writing process (for example, how to frame the relevance and potential impact, how to find the best-fitting grant, contacting the program manager, opening one’s options to various agencies, and having others edit the proposal). One participant stated that he uses the workshop PowerPoint slides as a checklist when writing proposals. Comments included that the mock review panels increased self-efficacy in proposal writing, a greater propensity to write proposals as compared to before their participation in ACW, and receiving awards.

A unique feature of the ACW is that it includes mock review panels in which participants review proposals.

There are other resources available to assist with early career faculty and doctoral students in computer and information science and engineering with grant writing, professional development, and networking. A few to note include the NSF Computer and Information Science and Engineering Career (CISE) Workshops (http://www.cis.temple.edu/NSFCareer2013/) that were offered twice in 2012 with two workshops planned for 2013. The Richard Tapia Celebration of Diversity in Computing (http://tapiacon-ference.org/2013/) is an annual conference that provides professional development and networking opportunities focused on academic careers. The Computing Research Association’s Committee on the Status of Women (CRA-W) (http://cra-w.org/ArticleDetails/tabid/77/ArticleID/50/Career-Mentoring-Workshop-CMW.aspx) and the Computing Research Association (http://cra.org/events/career-mentoring/) each organize a faculty-mentoring workshop in alternating years. The National Institute for Faculty Equity (NIFE) convenes a workshop at Georgia Tech for minorities in Engineering (http://serc.carleton.edu/facultyequity/workshop12/index.html).

A unique feature of the ACW is that it includes mock review panels in which participants review proposals (prior to attending) and engage in a discussion during the mock review process. The survey revealed 96% of the respondents indicated the mock review panel was essential or helpful to their gaining knowledge and skills related to grant proposal development. Fifty-two percent reported they utilize this information frequently in their career.

There is a significant focus at the ACW on navigating the promotion and tenure process.

ACW participants were asked to list all full grant proposals submitted (as PI or Co-PI) since 2005 and the status. Funding agencies included NSF, Department of Education, Department of Defense, NIH, CDC, CISCO, and NSERC. The respondents reported 119 proposals submitted from 2005 to 2011 with 63 proposals funded. The percent of proposals funded was an impressive 53%.

The U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) is where the largest number of proposals were submitted. Table 2 shows the NSF submissions and award rate reported by ACW participants by submission year. While causal inferences cannot be made between NSF grant awards and ACW participation, this table illustrates an impressive pattern of success in securing NSF grant awards. One workshop participant commented: “Before the workshop, I had read proposals but I had no idea of how to go about critiquing proposals or what to look for. After this workshop, I was able to know what to look for, what was good, and how to apply it to what is required…” Eighty-eight percent reported the ACW was essential or helpful in their acquiring the skills and knowledge to write successful funding proposals.

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Results: Promotion and Tenure

There is a significant focus at the ACW on navigating the promotion and tenure process. This program component was also effectual, even for those who have chosen alternative careers. Participants used this information to guide their activities and decisions, be it obtaining more information from their institution on their tenure process or choosing an alternative career path. For one participant who had not previously considered academia, this component opened up that option for him. For another participant, it helped him in planning his path from doctoral student to professor. The following quote indicates how the knowledge gained was applied: “The first thing I did was going back to my personnel committee…and I learned the process of evaluation at my institution…”

One participant with a disability conveyed a similar perspective—that if one does not know what to ask or how to seek out the information, then it is very possible that the individual is at a disadvantage and may never obtain it: “To me, I think, being deaf, I didn’t feel my having the socialization outside of being here (at the ACW) because it enabled me to get that information and knowledge that I was missing. … It helped me to ask the right questions. Sometimes you need the knowledge to know what questions to ask.”

Fifty (63%) of the survey respondents were in full-time faculty positions. Most (27) were assistant professors; six were post-doctoral fellows. Almost all (90%) responded that the ACW Promotion and Tenure panel was essential or helpful in their gaining knowledge and skills in navigating this process. Ten respondents reported that since their first ACW, they have been promoted from assistant to associate professor. Eight doctoral students acquired assistant professor positions. The promotion and tenure component was critical for graduate students transitioning into faculty roles and current faculty progressing through the tenure process.

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The findings from this evaluation should be of particular interest to department heads, dissertation directors, and those supervising postdoctoral fellows. The results emphasize that the ACW’s unique configuration of peer mentoring, professional development, and mock proposal reviews is highly beneficial for early career faculty yielding immediate and sustained impact.

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UF1 Figure. Race/ethnicity of the ACW participants responding to the survey.*

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T1 Table 1. Number of ACW participants and number and percentage of survey respondents by ACW year.*

T2 Table 2. NSF submissions and award rate reported by ACW participants by submission year.

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