S07: Barriers and Solutions to Advancing Careers

Chair: John Matsui

Perceived Academic Career Coach Effectiveness by Coaching Style among Biomedical PhD Students
Veronica Y. Womack, Simon N. Williams, Bhoomi K. Thakore, Letitia A. Onyango, and Richard McGee—all of Northwestern University

For the past several years, we have been experimenting with the use of coaching as a supplement to traditional research mentoring. Unlike a mentor, our coaches are not affiliated with the student’s home institution and, consequently, can provide independent and unbiased advice. Students also have access to the knowledge and support of their peers who belong to their coaching group (10 students at a similar stage of training). This coaching model has been in existence for four years, and we now have enough data to identify, assess and compare them in association with the students’ perception of coach effectiveness. The objective of this study is to 1) qualitatively determine the coaching styles and categorize the coaches by coaching style, and 2) use data from student interviews to identify perceptions of coach effectiveness by coaching style.

One hundred US biomedical graduate students were randomly assigned to one of ten coaching groups a month before beginning graduate school. Each coaching group had an equal number of men, women, underrepresented minorities (URM) and non-URM students. A senior faculty coach in the biomedical sciences led each group. The coaching groups met in person annually for 3 years. Students were encouraged to maintain virtual communication with both their coaching group and their coach throughout the year. The coaches were interviewed after in-person meetings and 6 months later. Students were interviewed the summer after their first and second years of graduate school. The interviews after the 2nd year of are the focus of the current analysis.

A researcher read the coach interviews and extracted details related to “strategies to engage”, “perceptions of individual students”, “perceptions of student engagement”, and “self-assessment”. A profile for each coach and their coaching style was constructed based on the profile content. One key theme that emerged was their degree of proactivity with engaging individuals coaching groups. This aspect of his or her coaching style categorized each coach. Previously coded student interviews were analyzed with particular attention to those within “Relationship with Coach”. A summary of the students’ evaluation of their coach was created. From this nine measures of coach effectiveness emerged. This study will focus on coach effectiveness as measured by “usefulness”.

Of nine coaches interviewed at all time points, their proactivity with respect to engaging individual students was classified as high (n=4), moderate (n=2) or low (n=3). Coaches were categorized with respect to proactivity with engaging their groups as high (n=6) or low (n=3).

Across coach styles and student responses, coaches were perceived as useful, especially when they provided encouragement and detailed feedback on research proposals. The later was seen most frequently with female URM students. Students with a high proactivity coach (for individual or group) talked more to their coach about stressful situations than those with low proactivity coaches. Students with low proactivity coaches stated that they wanted to have more interaction with their coach and coaching group.

This study found that perceived coach usefulness for 2nd year biomedical graduate students varies by degree of coach proactivity. Future analyses will assess the thematic variations of “coach usefulness” and “coaching group usefulness” by student URM status, gender, and year of training.

Supported by DP4 GM096807 and R01 GM107701

Benefits of the Academy Coaching Intervention on Perceptions of Academic Career Success

Bhoomi K. Thakore, Veronica Y. Womack, Simon N. Williams, Letitia Onyango, and Richard McGee—all of Northwestern University

Recent studies have acknowledged the many difficulties with acquiring an academic STEM career in the current economic climate. This reality exacerbates the relatively unchanged recruitment and retention of women and underrepresented minorities (URMs) into STEM faculty, despite many targeted efforts. On an individual level, intention to persist in an academic career can be informed by a number of factors. First, an individual’s personal motivation to pursue an academic career (“Wanting”) can vary and shift during one’s academic training. Second, the dynamics associated with acquiring (“Getting”) an academic position are palpable in this current professional climate. Third, one’s ability to succeed in an academic position upon acquiring one (“Succeeding”) is related to the degree to which one’s confidence increases or remains high over time.

The Academy for Future Science Faculty (henceforth, the Academy) is a longitudinal intervention created to address the issues associated with achieving diversity among faculty in the biomedical sciences. The first wave of the Academy began with 100 beginning PhD students representing a range of biomedical sciences departments and disciplines and an equal number of controls. Those who applied were randomly assigned to Academy or control, and the Academy group was equally stratified by race and gender. The objectives of the Academy intervention are two-fold: 1) delivery of information to promote graduate student success through annual in-person meetings held between 2011 and 2013, and 2) sustained development of communities through the random placement of 10 students into Coaching Groups each headed by an Academic Career Coach (henceforth, Coach). We identified Coaches as senior scientists in the biomedical sciences who are committed to faculty diversity efforts. Both objectives of the intervention are guided by key social science theories that help explain issues of inequality in biomedical training and career placement.

In this presentation, we will use a mixed-methods approach. First, we will examine longitudinal quantitative reports of students’ perceptions of “confidence in succeeding in an academic career” after 2 and 3 years of Academy participation. After this analysis, we will use longitudinal qualitative interview data to understand those Academy students who sustain and/or increase in their perception of “Succeeding” as a result of the Academy.

Preliminary findings suggest that there are no significant differences in “Succeeding” between the Academy and Control groups, nor are there differences between URMs and non-URMs in the Academy group. However, there are significant differences between men and women in the Academy group. Specifically, men in the Academy had a similar decline in “Succeeding” to those in the control, while women in the Academy held constant. Subsequent analysis will also examine other variables, such as the relationship between “Succeeding” for those Academy students who share the same gender as their Coach.

This research was supported by DP4 GM096807 (ARRA) and R01 GM107701.

Latina STEM Pathways to the Professoriate: Findings from President’s Postdoctoral Fellowship Program Interview Study

Yvette Flores, Lisceth Brazil-Cruz, Marilou de Leon Siantz, Adela de la Torre, and Laura Grindstaff—all of University of California, Davis

Several barriers deter Latina PhDs from entering into STEM careers in academia. Few qualitative studies have documented the career paths of Latinas in STEM fields to understand the contextual factors leading them to choose other career pathways outside of the professoriate. This interdisciplinary team of researchers has set out to investigate the career paths of former Latina UC President Postdoctoral fellows [PPFP] in various STEM disciplines between 1998 and 2014 by conducting in-depth, semi-structured interviews. The interviews are designed to identify the social, familial, and institutional barriers PPFP scholars have faced, their experiences of gender, class, and ethnic/racial discrimination, and the impact of the fellowship on their career success. This presentation will focus on the factors Latina PPFP fellows experienced throughout their educational trajectories that have lead them to successfully enter academia.

S08: Social Psychological Factors in Student Performance

Don't forget to join us in San Antonio for the 2017 UI Conference!

Our 9th Conference on Understanding Interventions that Broaden Participation in Science Careers will be held at the Sheraton Gunter Hotel, in downtown San Antonio.