Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Engineering Education

Committee Chair

Brent K. Jesiek

Committee Member 1

Michael C. Loui

Committee Member 2

Ruth A. Streveler

Committee Member 3

James L. Borgford-Parnell


The landscape of engineering academia is varied, yet many graduate students are socialized to aspire to a tenure-track faculty position at a research-intensive institution, and are told that teaching is a necessary activity in order to focus on research. However, some graduate students seek out a PhD so that they can primarily teach at the college level. There exists a misalignment for some graduate students between the way graduate programs in engineering prepare their graduates for academic positions and the way graduates desire to be prepared. In this dissertation, I examined the experiences of twelve assistant professors in engineering who are at institutions with varying focus on teaching and research. The Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education classifies institutions in part based on research activity. Most engineering programs, and most tenure-track engineering professors, are at Doctoral Universities with the Highest Research Activity (R1). All twelve participants earned their PhDs at an R1 Institution and were assistant professors at the following four institution types at the time of the interviews: Baccalaureate, Master’s, DU with Moderate Research Activity (R3), and DU with Higher Research Activity (R2). All four of these institution types likely have more focus on teaching than R1 Institutions and I was interested in understanding the transitions to these institutions from the R1 environment. The findings are presented in two ways: First, a thematic analysis was conducted to understand how the participants’ experiences were similar and different from each other. The thematic analysis findings are presented in response to the two main research questions: The pathways and experiences are discussed first, and then the teaching conceptions are discussed Second. Next, a co-constructed narrative was written for each participant to showcase the pathways from graduate school to their current institution. In

order to better make sense of the thematic analysis findings and the co-constructed narratives, I also present one narrative in greater detail through the use of narrative themes. I found that a majority of the participants felt underprepared for teaching and were socialized to believe teaching mattered less than research. Most participants specifically sought out non-R1 Institutions where they could focus on teaching in an environment where their dedication to teaching was supported. However, some participants still focus very much on research and scholarship, but enjoy the less intense expectations of their current institutions. In this dissertation, I introduce twelve stories about new engineering faculty at non-R1 Institutions so that current and future graduate students, as well as current and future faculty members, can learn more about the pathways to faculty positions at non-R1 Institutions.