First-Hand:History of an ASEE Fellow - Jenna P. Carpenter


History of an ASEE Fellow

Dr. Jenna P. Carpenter

As of May 2018

Birthplace: Corsicana, Texas

Birth date: November 7, 1961

Family[edit | edit source]

I am an only child, born to Depression Era parents. My father was a World War II veteran who attended Arkansas State University on the GI Bill and graduated with a B.S. in Agriculture. He worked in engineering-related jobs his entire career and would have liked to pursue engineering as an undergraduate, but engineering was not offered at Arkansas State and he was a commuting student. Because he often worked on lab reports related to his job at home in the evening, he purchased one of the first calculators on the market when I was in about third grade, at a time when it was unusual for people to own (or even have ever seen) a calculator.

Education[edit | edit source]

My educational (and career) path has been non-standard for an engineering dean. As a woman, I am old enough that while the doors to engineering were (newly) opened to women by the time I started college in the fall of 1980, they weren’t necessarily unlocked. The philosophy in engineering was still very much the weed-out mentality and faculty made no effort to hide the fact that their goal was to flunk and run off as many engineering majors as possible. Being a woman was just one more reason for you to not be there. I started off with a major in Biomedical Engineering, but received almost no encouragement and very poor advising my freshman year, even though I was a straight A student. In spring of my freshman year, the Mathematics Department offered me a full tuition scholarship (something that was very unusual in those days, as scholarships were few and far between, unlike today). The Mathematics Faculty were interested in me, encouraging, etc., so I changed my major from Biomedical Engineering to Mathematics with a Statistics-Math-Engineering Minor (which required me to take 6 hours of engineering courses). I took statics, operations research and a senior-level biomedical engineering controls course, along with the standard mathematics degree requirements. After graduating with my B.S. in Mathematics from Louisiana Tech, I received an Alumni Federation Fellowship at Louisiana State University, where I obtained my M.S. and Ph.D. in Mathematics.

Employment[edit | edit source]

I was on the faculty at Louisiana Tech University for 26 years, the first six of which were spent in the Mathematics Department located in the College of Arts and Sciences, and the last twenty years as an administrator in the newly formed College of Engineering and Science (formed from the merger of the School of Science in the College of Arts and Sciences and the College of Engineering). After serving for one year as Program Chair for Mathematics, I spent the next ten years as department head for various engineering and science programs, having responsibility at one time or other for all seven engineering programs, both engineering technology programs, and computer science (but never mathematics). The administrative structure of the College of Engineering and Science selected administrators because of their leadership skills, not their disciplinary expertise, which is why I was an engineering department head, even though all of my degrees are in mathematics. I spent the last eight years as Associate Dean in the College, first for Administration and Strategic Initiatives and lastly for Undergraduate Studies. I retired from Louisiana Tech University in 2015 to become Founding Dean of Engineering at Campbell University in North Carolina.

Research and Scholarship[edit | edit source]

I have had three different research careers. My first area of research focused on an areas of pure mathematics, quadratic forms over number fields. My dissertation and first publications as a faculty member were in this area. Because it was a new area of research, much of the work I did for my dissertation was foundational to the field. My work is still used today as the basis for work in this area and many of the techniques and approaches that I developed continue to be used by researchers. My second research career, which started soon after I took my first faculty job, was in the area of innovative STEM education. I was a PI, co-PI or Senior Personnel on four grants which developed, assessed and implemented innovative courses and curricula in STEM, the largest being the LivingWithTheLab first- and second-year engineering curriculum developed at Louisiana Tech University and adapted elsewhere. My third research career has focused on issues related to the success of women in STEM fields. I served as PI or co-PI for three National Science Foundation grants, including an NSF ADVANCE grant to create a culture of success for women faculty in engineering and science. In 2015, I was approximately the 50th woman to be named as a dean of engineering in the US. I continue to speak and write about issues related to women in STEM across the country and abroad.

Philosophy of Engineering Education[edit | edit source]

I have been privileged to spend the majority of my career at institutions where innovation in STEM education was strongly encourage and supported. I co-developed the mathematics portion of the NSF-funded project-based, hands-on LivingWithTheLab first- and second-year engineering curriculum at Louisiana Tech University. I brought this curriculum with me to Campbell University where we have revised it, utilizing approaches from Purdue University’s first-year honors engineering program, and expanded the hands-on, project-based approach to a robust four-year engineering undergraduate curriculum, complete with innovative classlabs and curricula to support this approach. I have personally taught precalculus and calculus in this curriculum for approximately 20 years, and continue to teach in it as a dean (which is unusual). It is amazing what students can learn when you create innovative experiences for them. In addition to a robust hands-on approach (which not only appeals to a broader spectrum of learning styles, but also helps students learn more deeply), our curriculum at Campbell includes requires 50 hours of professional development and service outside of class during the first-year, robust first-year design projects, a heavy emphasis on student professional organizations, internships, professional licensure professional skills, communication and teamwork, along with entrepreneurial, study abroad, leadership training, and national research and conference opportunities. In short, we are trying to build a curricular experience that heeds the calls of the National Academy of Engineering’s “Educating the Engineer of 2020” and similar reports for reform of engineering education. We also do not have a separate admissions requirement for engineering. Any student admitted to the university can major in engineering. For those who are underprepared, we have an alternate (not remedial) pathway. Our goal is to attract and retain a much broader spectrum of student to engineering, including more women, underrepresented minorities, nontraditional students, veterans, athletes, first-generation college students, students from low socio-economic backgrounds, etc., who often get excluded by strict admissions criteria. Having taught in an innovative and open environment for two decades, I can attest that it provides a superior experience for our students and creates engineering graduates who are heads-above their peers from traditional programs.

ASEE Activities[edit | edit source]

I have had the privilege to serve in a variety of capacities with ASEE, including as program chair and chair for both the Electrical and Computer Engineering Division and the Mathematics Division. During my tenure as program chair, ASEE made the transition to a new online paper management system for the conference, so I was one of the guinea pigs that year! I got to know the ASEE staff very well and had the opportunity, as an experienced program chair, to make a number of suggestions and recommendations about the system and how it works. I served two other divisions, as a Director for the Educational Research Methods Division (chairing the Ben Dasher Award Committee) and Director-at-Large for the Women in Engineering Division.

I served on the ASEE Board of Directors as PIC III Chair and Vice President for PICs. During my term as Vice President, the PIC Chairs made a number of changes to the annual conference program. For example, we eliminated the expensive and somewhat unpopular Sunday picnic and created the Division Mixer (which was actually my idea! I have been thrilled to see it be so successful) in its stead. We also made all sessions 90 minutes long (previously, sessions at 7 AM and at noon were only an hour long; they were added to the schedule at some point prior to the previous first session of the day at 8 AM and in the noon time slot, to increase the number of available session slots in the program. As a program chair, it was impossible to know ahead of time how many papers to assign to a session when you did not yet know if the session would be 60 minutes or 90 minutes long). We also added an event to highlight the award winners (it started out as a reception with a brief program on Tuesday afternoon). Lastly, we successfully lobbied to change the terms for PIC chairs to three years from two. PIC Chairs were learning their jobs the first year. By year two, one of the PIC Chairs had to serve as Vice President of PICs and lead all of the PIC Chairs (including two or three brand new people) in overseeing the conference, even though their collective knowledge and understanding of the processes and issues was thin. Moreover, PIC were not in their role long enough to usher in needed changes and see them to fruition, which meant that the PIC Chairs were often re-visiting problematic issues over and over, year after year, with no resolution.

I presently serve as Chair of the Long-Range Planning Committee and on the Constitution and Bylaws Committee. In these roles, I have led the Board through a multi-year strategic planning initiative on restructuring the governance model (with input from a large and broad constituent group of ASEE members over a year-long period), as well as revisions to the constitution (to remove the dollar-figure for ASEE regular membership dues from the Constitution since that number must change over time if the organization is to remain solvent). Most recently, I have led the Board to create a new mission statement, vision statement, goals and now strategies or tactics.

Other Professional Activities[edit | edit source]

In addition to ASEE, I have been very active in the Mathematica Association of America (I serve as the ASEE-MAA Liaison). I served one term as First Vice President of the MAA, as Governor of the Louisiana-Mississippi MAA Section, member of the Board of Governors/Congress, Chair of the Council on the Profession, Chair of the Committee on Professional Development, Co-Chair of the Joint Committee on Women in the Mathematical Sciences; Chair of the Project NExT Search Committee; and member of the MAA Nominating Committee, Committee on Curricular Reform in the First Two Years (CRAFTY) and various task forces.

I served for almost a decade on the Board of Directors for the Women in Engineering ProActive Network, including a term as WEPAN President. I served as co-PI on the NSF-funded WEPAN Knowledge Center Project and led the WEPAN Webinar Series.

I have served as a Society for Women Engineers (SWE) Faculty Advisor at both Louisiana Tech University (where our student section won four national awards) and at Campbell University (where we founded a new student section in the new School of Engineering). I served one term as the national SWE Faculty Advisor/Counselor Coordinator.