Engineering professor receives grant to investigate shame

March 20, 2018 | Engineering & Physics |

The Harding University Department of Engineering and Physics has been awarded funding of more than $250,000 by the University of Georgia as part of a research grant from the National Science Foundation. The amount of the total award is approximately $500,000 and supports a three-year collaborative project between Harding University and the University of Georgia. The investigation will examine how engineering students tend to experience shame, a negative emotion that arises from failure to meet perceived expectations. The research will contribute to better understanding emotional mechanisms that cause some individuals, particularly women and people from underrepresented racial and ethnic backgrounds, to feel excluded from cultures of engineering.

The project, titled “Inclusion, exclusion, and socialization in engineering programs — Investigating key affective socio-psychological mechanisms in professional formation,” will conduct and analyze interviews and focus groups with engineering students to better understand how shame is a part of the educational experience. In the context of his research lab, Beyond Professional Identity, Assistant Professor James Huff is directing the overall project between both universities.

“Students — beyond just engineering — have powerful experiences that are colored by their emotions,” said Huff. “Shame, in particular, is an emotion that is often handled by individuals in ways that are not helpful to them, and is a possible mechanism that results in certain people avoiding pursuing the engineering field. It is well-documented, for example, that women and individuals from underrepresented racial or ethnic backgrounds often experience marginalization in this field that has a majority of White men. Through our findings, we want to provide recommendations for how students can maintain emotional stability in moments of shame and also provide recommendations to engineering programs to create inclusive cultures of all students.”

Drs. Joachim Walther and Nicola Sochacka from the University of Georgia are dually directing the research at UGA. The program represents a unique cross-disciplinary endeavor as Dr. Jeremiah Sullins from Harding University, associate professor of psychology, and Dr. Shari Miller, associate dean of social work at UGA, are providing important contributions from their backgrounds to the interpretation of the results within this project.

To learn more about the programs and services offered by the College of Sciences and the Department of Engineering and Physics, visit www.harding.edu/engineering or call 501-279-5440.

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