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  1. It is well established that access to social supports is essential for engineering students’ persistence and yet access to supports varies across groups. Understanding the differential supports inherent in students’ social networks and then working to provide additional needed supports can help the field of engineering education become more inclusive of all students. Our work contributes to this effort by examing the reliability and fairness of a social capital instrument, the Undergraduate Supports Survey (USS). We examined the extent to which two scales were reliable across ability levels (level of social capital), gender groups and year-in-school. We conducted two item response theory (IRT) models using a graded response model and performed differential item functioning (DIF) tests to detect item differences in gender and year-in-school. Our results indicate that most items have acceptable to good item discrimination and difficulty. DIF analysis shows that multiple items report DIF across gender groups in the Expressive Support scale in favor of women and nonbinary engineering students. DIF analysis shows that year-in-school has little to no effect on items, with only one DIF item. Therefore, engineering educators can use the USS confidently to examine expressive and instrumental social capital in undergraduates across year-in-school. Our work can be used by the engineering education research community to identify and address differences in students’ access to support. We recommend that the engineering education community works to be explicit in their expressive and instrumental support. Future work will explore the measurement invariance in Expressive Support items across gender. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available October 1, 2024
  2. This work-in-progress (WIP) paper aims to elucidate how students have developed professional skills since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and who are the people who have provided skill development opportunities. Because of the way social distancing affected engineering education during the pandemic, developing professional skills may have been a challenge for engineering students. While online courses and virtual meetings allowed students to remain in contact with faculty and each other, the opportunities to continue having deep relationships (i.e., strong ties) were sparse. Our paper presents an early look at findings from the qualitative phase of an explanatory mixed methods study conducted with 1,234 undergraduates from 13 schools in the US. Our ongoing thematic qualitative analysis reveals that the changes that accompanied social distancing and periods of emergency remote teaching caused by COVID-19 have reinforced different opportunities to develop professional skills than prior to the pandemic. While some students expressed they had fewer opportunities to develop professional skills, participants also identified opportunities to (1) hone written communication skills when inperson discussions were reduced and (2) leverage knowledge from family members to continue developing professionally. Our next steps include finishing the qualitative analysis phase of the project and mixing the qualitative and quantitative data to develop overarching findings that the engineering education community can use to understand how students’ professional skills develop and how to promote that development even during times of educational disruption. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available July 1, 2024
  3. The purpose of our poster presentation is two-fold: 1) to provide an overview of our NSF project, Pandemic Impact: Undergraduates’ Social Capital and Engineering Professional Skills, and 2) to report our progress and preliminary quantitative findings. We hope to discuss our project and preliminary results with fellow engineering educators and receive feedback. The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted engineering education in multiple ways that will continue to be felt for years to come. One of the less understood ways the pandemic has continued to leave a residue on engineering education is how social distancing and online courses altered students’ professional development. Of particular concern are students who were either new to the institution or started their college education during the pandemic. These students have potentially limited opportunities to establish social relationships at their educational institutions compared to students who already developed such relationships when the pandemic-induced online learning took place. The differences in students’ social relationships can have other, more profound impacts on their undergraduate engineering experiences. Research has shown that students’ social relationships provide them with connections to resources and supports essential for navigating an engineering program and help them obtain more opportunities to practice non-technical professional skills [1], [2]. Although social distancing measures diminished and students returned primarily to in-person, the pandemic has altered the development of engineering students in ways not understood. In particular, understanding the nature of students’ social interactions on campus and the types of opportunities for professional development is essential so that instructors and campus staff can respond to the developmental needs of students. As a result, the overarching research question for our project is: How do engineering undergraduates leverage relationships (operationalized as social capital) to gain opportunities to develop professional skills? 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available July 1, 2024
  4. This research paper describes an autoethnographic study of three individuals: Julie, a tenured faculty member and experienced engineering education researcher, and two novice engineering education researchers, Paul, a more junior faculty member, and Deepthi, a graduate student. The tripartite mentoring relationship between us formed as part of a National Science Foundation Research Initiation in Engineering Formation (NSF RIEF) project. We grounded our work in the cognitive apprenticeship model of mentoring and theory of social capital, asking the question: How do mentors and mentees perceive shared experiences? Over the course of 16 months, we collected data in the form of reflective journal entries and transcripts from individual and joint interviews, combining these with other documentation such as emails and text messages. We analyzed these data by identifying three critical incidents over the course of the relationship to date and comparing each of our perceptions of these shared experiences. We found that our perceptions of the shared experiences differed greatly, providing multiple opportunities to improve our future communication. We also discovered that our initial mentoring model in which Julie mentored Paul and Paul mentored Deepthi did not withstand scrutiny. Because Paul was new to engineering education research, it was better for Julie to mentor both Paul and Deepthi than to expect Paul to teach Deepthi topics and methods that were new to him. We assert that other projects would benefit by this approach as well. Our findings offer broad implications for the efficacy of reflection and communication in mentoring relationships. 
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  5. During the Spring 2020 semester, universities shifted into emergency remote teaching due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Globally, the pandemic disrupted students learning, their support structures, and interactions with other individuals both socially and academically. In addition, it created lasting impacts on professionals in determining strategies and altering objectives to help undergraduate engineering students achieve their learning objectives. Previous research on social support during the pandemic has focused primarily on singular cultural context, this study was conducted to understand the impact of the pandemic on students support in different cultural contexts. The purpose of this research was to explore how students experienced social capital structures at two institutions: one in the United Kingdom (U.K.) and one in the United States (U.S.) during the period of emergency remote teaching. The survey was designed around social capital theory, it provided demographic information, students agreement with their educational and social interactions, and names of individuals as well as resources they utilized during the pandemic.Results revealed similarities and differences between the two groups. Both case studies had the same top three alters: friends/roommate, professor, and family members, and reported almost the same frequency in communication with their alters. Participants in both case studies also hadhigh rates of support in both expressive and instrumental categories from their top two alters. Examiningthe differences, the UK case had a lower mean response for both sense of belonging and satisfaction at the university. Finally, there was a difference in the types of alters identified in each case due to different cultural contexts. 
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  6. The pandemic of COVID-19 is disrupting engineering education globally, at all levels of education.While distance education is nothing new, the pandemic of COVID-19 forced instructors to rapidly move their courses online whether or not they had ever received prior training in online education. In particular, there is very little literature to guide instructors in supporting students in online engineering design or project-based courses. The purpose of this research is to examine engineering students’ report of social support in their project and design-based courses at a large research university during the move to online instruction due to COVID-19in the Spring 2020 semester and to provide recommendations for instructors teaching these types of courses online in the future.Our study is framed by social constructivism and social capital theory.We surveyed undergraduate engineering and engineering technology students(n=235) across undergraduate levels during the final week of the Spring 2019 semester.Survey questions included open-ended prompts about social supports and overall experience with the transition to online learning as well as name and resource generator questions focused on specific people and types of interactions that changed during the pandemic. We used qualitative content analysis of the open-ended responses along with comparisons of the name and resource generator to develop recommendations for instructors.Recommendations to increase students’ social supports include:facilitating informal conversations between students and between students and the instructional team, grouping students located in the same time zones in teams, facilitating co-working sessions for students, establishing weekly structure, and utilizing some synchronous components (e.g., virtual office hours). 
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  7. Abstract

    Growing evidence suggests that liana competition with trees is threatening the global carbon sink by slowing the recovery of forests following disturbance. A recent theory based on local and regional evidence further proposes that the competitive success of lianas over trees is driven by interactions between forest disturbance and climate. We present the first global assessment of liana–tree relative performance in response to forest disturbance and climate drivers. Using an unprecedented dataset, we analysed 651 vegetation samples representing 26,538 lianas and 82,802 trees from 556 unique locations worldwide, derived from 83 publications. Results show that lianas perform better relative to trees (increasing liana‐to‐tree ratio) when forests are disturbed, under warmer temperatures and lower precipitation and towards the tropical lowlands. We also found that lianas can be a critical factor hindering forest recovery in disturbed forests experiencing liana‐favourable climates, as chronosequence data show that high competitive success of lianas over trees can persist for decades following disturbances, especially when the annual mean temperature exceeds 27.8°C, precipitation is less than 1614 mm and climatic water deficit is more than 829 mm. These findings reveal that degraded tropical forests with environmental conditions favouring lianas are disproportionately more vulnerable to liana dominance and thus can potentially stall succession, with important implications for the global carbon sink, and hence should be the highest priority to consider for restoration management.

     
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