Elizabeth M. Horstman, Danielle J. Mai, Yanfen Li, Rohit Bhargava
Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.23429
Publication year: 2015

According to data collected by the National Science Foundation, women were conferred roughly 40% of doctoral degrees in STEM fields from 2002-2012, yet in 2010, women accounted for only 27% of tenure-track assistant professorships in engineering.1 While the gender gap in STEM fields remains an ongoing discussion,2-4 programs that provide resources and support for female engineering doctoral students interested in pursuing academic careers may help to address this gap. The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign regularly hosts seminars and afternoon-long workshops for doctoral students to learn about the academic job application process. Although these seminars and workshops are effective at disseminating information, they do little to encourage students to seriously consider, prepare for, and apply to faculty positions. To address the aforementioned issue, the Graduate Committee of the Society of Women Engineers (GradSWE) at Illinois developed the Illinois Female Engineers in Academia Training (iFEAT) program. iFEAT is a multi-month program with seminars and panel discussions, which are geared toward informing participants about the academic job application process, and independent peer review groups, which provide feedback on prepared application materials. Specific aims of iFEAT are for participants to demonstrate increased knowledge of the faculty position application process, to prepare tangible application materials, and to increase confidence in their application packages. To ensure program development, iFEAT will be evaluated primarily based on program (i)content, (ii) format, (iii) pace, and (iv) climate. The program structure was designed to encourage communication and camaraderie among participants and faculty. Approximately every 3 weeks,students will attend a seminar or faculty panel discussion. Between each of these major events,student peer review groups will share and review application materials. Seminars will provide information about applying for a faculty position, tailoring cover letters to specific job postings,understanding (or developing) a teaching philosophy, applying for funding (transforming a research statement into a funding proposal), and determining ideal recommenders (learning to cultivate relationships with potential recommenders). Panel discussions will widen students’perspectives toward developing a unique research statement, understanding the interview process, and negotiating a start-up package. Independent peer review groups will provide the primary form of feedback on application materials. Near the end of the program, students will‘submit’ their application packages to a different peer group that will act as a ‘search committee.’All members of the ‘search committee’ will read other applicants’ packages and provide anonymous feedback to the applicants. This process will help students better understand how search committees operate, as well as broaden the scope of their teaching and research statements. At the end of iFEAT, students will have a peer-reviewed draft of application materials, as well as access to professors who support the development and advancement of female faculty in engineering. Through iFEAT, we hope to increase the representation of women in academia, as well as improve the competitiveness of Illinois graduates seeking academic careers.