The Engineering Ambassadors Network: A Professional Development Program with an Outreach Mission
The Engineering Ambassadors Network (EAN) is addressing the need for increased leadership and communication skills in tomorrowﾒs engineering workforce by training a diverse group of undergraduate engineering students to share their passion for engineering through outreach to middle and high school students. Simultaneously, project research and evaluation activities are constructing a much-needed profile of undergraduate student participantsﾒ emerging professional identities, with the aim of revealing the motivations and decision making processes that lie behind the recruitment and retention of high caliber students to the organization and the field of engineering as a whole.
Project goals include scaling and sustaining EAN chapters at colleges throughout the United States. Key activities include training workshops, the provision of online resources, and outreach visits.
The project is managed through a flexibly deployed, tiered team. One individual serves as the point of contact for colleges. New participants receive initial training; returning schools receive advanced training and the opportunity to mentor students from other institutions. Workshops are facilitated by a growing network of project leaders, senior ambassadors, program graduates, and veteran advisors. Evaluators observe and follow participants at and after the workshops, and then provide feedback to the project leaders. Facilitators use standard materials, processes and protocols to conduct the training and the evaluation.
The number of newly trained engineering ambassadors is growing annually and has exceeded 250 since the NSF award began. Five years after its inception and two years after a NSF TUES level 2 award, the EAN has grown from four to more than thirty colleges of engineering across the country. It has begun to offer regional three-day workshops that train up to 150 ambassadors at a time, and provides advisors with professional development about growing and sustaining their chapters. Ambassadors have reached more than 54,000 middle and high school students over the past two years. Workshop observation and artifact review reveals high quality, evidence-based training processes. The timely infusion of strategies and ideas from NSF�s I-Corps for Learning program has also allowed for the development and distribution of online tutorials that contribute to the network�s ability to provide consistent training. Participant interview and questionnaire responses reveal that while learning to be ambassadors for their field, many students are experiencing the kind of personal transformation that reignites their sense of purpose for embarking on and remaining in an engineering career, and improves their confidence to communicate technical information in their degree programs, internships, and jobs. Students report enhanced self-perceptions and improved knowledge and skills as a result of the EA training.
The broader impacts of the project include community engagement by engineering colleges that participate in the network; sustainability-enhancing networking among students and faculty; the development of a logic model to describe and explain the mechanisms through which the network and its chapters achieve their impact; publically available training materials that can be used to scale and sustain this engineering leadership program; and increased understanding of the career-related motivations and decision making processes of under-represented engineering students.
Garner, J.K., Alley, M. & Kaplan, A. (2016, proposed). From undergraduates to ambassadors: The impact of EA Network training. Proposed to the Annual Meeting of the American Society for Engineering Education, New Orleans, LA.
Alley, M., Garner, J.K. & Haas, C. (2016, proposed). Engineering Ambassadors Network: Best practices in teaching the Assertion Evidence approach. Proposed to the Annual Meeting of the American Society for Engineering Education, New Orleans, LA.
Alley, M., Haas, C., & Garner, J.K. (2015). Engineering Ambassador Network: Progress in 2014 on Creating a National Network on Ambassadors. Presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Society for Engineering Education, Vancouver, Canada.