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Alice Pawley

Assistant professor of engineering education - College of Engineering

Alice Pawley

What do you do at Purdue?

I am an assistant professor of engineering education, and an affiliate with the Women's Studies Program and Division of Environmental and Ecological Engineering. I run the Research in Feminist Engineering (RIFE) research group (feministengineering.org), which is a diverse group of researchers who think creatively about gender and engineering education, and to think about, write, and teach in ways that will result in a change in how engineering education is done. I also teach in a couple of our required first-year engineering courses, which are the first formal engineering courses many of our students take; and I co-teach a graduate course on the history and philosophy of engineering education.

Which woman has inspired you most? Why?

I'm glad to be able to say this was a hard question to answer -- there are so many!

Research-wise, I am enamored of Brenda Laurel, a researcher and designer in California who uses narratives to study how people use technology in different ways, and encourages us to think how we can design technology to increase people's sense of citizenship and humanness.

I am inspired by my mom, who immigrated to the U.S. from England in the 1970s, knew almost no one, raised three kids as a stay-at-home parent, then got a Ph.D. in library and information studies, became a faculty member, commuted for years to be able to have a professional career while still supporting us, and now is chair of her department.

But I am also lucky in having many awesome women in my life who inspire me on a daily basis -- family members, colleagues, people working in different ways out in the world.

What are your goals and experiences with mentoring or encouraging others?

One of my key goals at Purdue is to construct and support an inclusive learning environment, in particular where diverse junior researchers can learn to develop themselves into successful, balanced and rigorous engineering education researchers. Most recently, I helped initiate a group called the PEER Collaborative, which is a national network of early career tenure-track or mid-career tenured faculty who focus on doing engineering education research and who have come together to give each other advice, direction and solace about their work as tenure-track faculty in a newly recognized academic discipline. We had an NSF-funded workshop in August 2011 that we organized as a peer-mentoring unconference, where participants came together to decide what to talk about, and then to talk with each other about those topics.

I was so proud of how so many people were willing to come together to help each other, and that junior faculty were working to help themselves, not relying on what senior faculty might choose to tell them. I found the workshop -- and working with this group of colleagues -- a valuable mentoring experience, and I hope to continue the network as our engineering education discipline grows and matures.