Office of Research and Sponsored Programs
Recent Developments in the Morehouse College Research Community
Principal Investigator: Kinnis Gosha, PhD
Grant Title: “HBCU-DCL EAGER: Virtually Preparing Underrepresented Students for the Engineering and Computer Science Professoriate Using Embodied Conversational Agents."
Funding Agency: National Science Foundation
Grant Amount: $299,882
Project Period: September 1,2017 - August 31, 2019
The aim of this project is to develop and evaluate a virtual mentoring system (VMS) that uses a group of embodied conversational agents (think avatars) to mentor underrepresented doctoral students majoring in engineering and computer science who are pursuing a career in the professoriate. This system is needed to 1) expose undergraduate students to the idea of pursuing a career in the professoriate and 2) educate those interested students about the professoriate and the best way to prepare for the professoriate. Since the tier of doctoral program has a direct impact on the likelihood of a PhD graduate obtaining a tenure track position after graduation, the VMS will be utilized by undergraduates in addition to graduate students. The vision of this system is to fill in the gaps left by traditional mentoring, formal mentoring programs, internet searches and tele-mentoring. This project is high risk due to the notion of having computer programs mentor people. The big reward for this project would be to offer highly effective and informative mentoring at scale with minimal effort from the mentors. The PI, Kinnis Gosha, developed the first mentoring system for his dissertation research and found it equally effective at giving career mentoring functions to undergraduate HBCU computer science majors as traditional mentoring. This study is designed to answer the following question: How does use of a virtual mentoring system compare to that of a traditional mentoring for underrepresented engineering and computer science students at the undergraduate and graduate levels? It is hypothesized that there will be no significant difference between the effectiveness of the virtual mentoring system and traditional mentoring. An exploratory sequential mixed methods will be used to collect data from student participants. Mentoring effectiveness will be measured by actions the mentee takes and information the mentee knows before and after the intervention. The PI, Kinnis Gosha, is an Assistant Professor at Morehouse College and will build the knowledgebase, construct the VMS and test the VMS with undergraduate students at three southeastern HBCUs. The knowledgebase will be built by utilizing interviews from Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) from the ASEE (American Society of Engineering Education), iAAMCS (Institute for African American Mentoring in Computer Science) and the ARL (Academic and Research Leadership) Network.
Accomplishments yielded from grant activities
This project will help to increase the number of African American Engineering and Computer Scientist in the academy. Successful results from the implementation of this study could also lead to a version targeted at other underrepresented groups.
Impact of the Grant on the Student Participants
For those students who do not chose a career in the professoriate, some may still go for a terminal STEM degree. If proven effective, a VMS can be created for high school students considering an undergraduate degree in STEM. Lastly, the creation of the movie about going into the professoriate and the VMS can be used by other research prep programs at HBCUs.
You can learn more information about Dr. Gosha's research endeavors by visiting the Culturally Relevant Computer Lab (CRCL). www.crclab.com.