College of LAS and Engineering professors study STEM faculty engagement

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Researchers in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and the College of Engineering at Iowa State University are studying factors affecting the engagement of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) faculty and the contributions of their work. The study, “EAGER: Understanding and Strengthening STEM Faculty Engagement, the Institutional Environment and Transformative Research,” proposes to better understand what drives faculty to flourish and persist in STEM careers.

“The focus of this project distinguishes it from others,” said Diane Rover, professor of electrical and computer engineering. “We are specifically looking at institutional support and faculty work related to the broader impacts of their research and trying to assess how these are related to faculty careers and retention.”

Mack Shelley, University Professor of political science and statistics, and chair of the Department of Political Science, said a major goal of the study is to help determine how Iowa State can do better at helping faculty succeed and feel a stronger connection with the institution. “We hope to come up with results that will help faculty stay and thrive at Iowa State,” he said.

The EAGER project will accomplish two main interwoven activities. The research group will design and conduct a study to find out what will help make faculty happier, as well as more productive, competent, autonomous, and related to the institution, said Shelley. They will also convene a workshop to discuss recent work by other scholars, share best practices, and develop recommendations for action by institutions of higher education to foster faculty success, he said.

The ISU ADVANCE Program, which aims to advance women and minorities in academic careers, and SP@ISU (Strengthening the Professoriate) helped pave the way for the EAGER project, said Lisa Larson, professor of psychology.

“ISU ADVANCE and SP@ISU changed the conversation at Iowa State to include department climate as a legitimate topic, which opened the door for our study to more closely examine how department and university practices may positively relate to faculty satisfaction and well-being,” said Larson.

ISU’s EAGER project received a two-year $300,000 grant from the National Science Foundation. The NSF’s EAGER funds (Early-concept Grants for Exploratory Research) support “exploratory work in its early stages on untested, but potentially transformative, research ideas or approaches.”

Other project members for the EAGER study are Sandra Gahn, associate director of institutional research, Megan Heitmann, assistant director of SP@ISU, and Beate Schmittmann, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.


NEWS RELEASE College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Iowa State University

Contacts: Lisa Larson, Psychology ( Diane Rover, Electrical and Computer Engineering ( Mack Shelley, Political Science and Statistics ( Laura Wille, Liberal Arts and Sciences Communications (