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2023 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


American Society for Engineering Education

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This paper is an evidence-based practice paper. In competitive research environments, many universities and engineering colleges utilize start-up or recruitment packages to attract potential candidates. These costs are distributed across multiple cost centers within the university ecosystem. Potential engineering faculty candidates may sign a probationary contract and are provided with role statements during onboarding processes. Within the role statement, research has been the primary area that is catalyzed with start-up funding. Typically, start-up funding has prescribed purposes by category. According to the 2019 American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) Engineering Research Council (ERC) Startup Package Survey, "77.6% of the start-up packages were negotiated by categories." While start-up packages are well-known tools for recruitment in engineering, their composition, categories and cost-center distribution are less well described. Methods: Start-up packages (n=29) for assistant tenure-track engineering faculty hired between 2013-2019 within a midsize college of engineering at an emerging R1 were analyzed. The mixed methods study utilized descriptive analysis, themes and tree map charts to conceptualize and characterize the categories used. The study examined one question: How are the categories of assistant tenure track engineering faculty start-up packages different or similar across multiple departments? Results: The study contributes to the knowledge about early career engineering faculty professional formation. Specifically, the study revealed start-up packages as critical stimuli for the transition from graduate/postdoctoral student to paid assistant tenure track professor. Start-up package negotiations occurred where there are expectations and actions that are formative and not well described a priori. Discussion: Assistant tenure track professors had start-up packages that varied by department between 2013-2019. This study acknowledged that the seven cohorts did not all begin with the same start-ups within their six-year cycle. Some departments provided new candidates with less than $100,000 each while others invested over $430,000 per candidate. Based on the data, the survey and other secondary data examined some general recommendations were identified. Importantly, the data may be seen as a starting point for having informed conversations with others in the ecosystem and engineering faculty who are mentoring students and early career faculty. Limitations: The limitations of the study are that the data were sampled from early career faculty in the western US which may have different costs of living depending on the area. The data were collected as secondary data to demonstrate the significant investments institutions have in early career faculty and that this was a potential motivator and/or variable for grant writing and research.

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