The Rising Engineering Education Faculty Experience program (REEFE) is a professional development program that connects graduate students in engineering education with faculty members at teaching-focused institutions. The program goal is to simultaneously support faculty growth in engineering education and graduate student growth as academic change agents. Our program has transitioned from a partnership between one engineering education graduate program and one engineering institution to a consortium of engineering education graduate programs that sends students to multiple institutions across the country. The REEFE Consortium also developed a unique partnership with the Making Academic Change Happen initiative to offer continuous training to graduate students during their REEFE experience.
Many positive outcomes have come from the development of the REEFE Consortium, including better graduate training in research at the coordinating institution, a better understanding of program logistics, and new and strengthened professional relationships. We discovered a number of challenges associated with providing intensive professional development opportunities to graduate students, including timing of experiences relative to degree progress, loss of connection to the home research community, and financial impact, especially as it relates to travel and housing.
While a search of existing literature in professional development in higher education has provided best practices for existing programs, there is little to no available research highlighting barriers that exist to offering different types of professional development opportunities to graduate student populations. These barriers are important to highlight as they provide critical information needed in the design and decision making for those seeking to create useful professional development opportunities for graduate populations.
This paper provides an updated description of the Rising Engineering Education Faculty Experience program as we attempt to scale the program. We summarize the existing literature on barriers to participation in professional development opportunities for graduate students. Finally, we describe how REEFE both addresses and fails to address these barriers.
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