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Doctoral Student Micaha Dean Hughes Awarded 2023 Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Best Student Paper from American Society for Engineering Education

Dean Hughes award

Micaha Dean Hughes, a doctoral student in the NC State College of Education’s Ph.D. in Teacher Education and Learning Sciences educational psychology concentration, has been awarded the 2023 Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Best Student Paper from the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE). 

“To be celebrated in a room of exceptional graduate student peers meant a lot. As a third-year doctoral student, it was a humbling experience to have younger graduate students come up and interact with us about how we approached the paper and to discuss potential collaborations,” Hughes said. “To be recognized not only by a committee of faculty and student reviewers for the paper is a testament to how well my co-author, John Roberts, and I have been prepared by our academic advisors, mentors and departments through our professional and academic careers.”

Hughes and Roberts, a doctoral student at the University of Kentucky College of Education, were also nominated as the only graduate student finalists for the overall Best Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Paper award. This award seeks to identify highly impactful efforts by ASEE authors that broaden participation in engineering and engineering technology as well as influences the inclusive and diverse future of the field. 

The award-winning paper examined the processes and models used within enrollment management structures that may directly and indirectly exclude students who hope to become engineers. The study found that there is a mismatch between outreach information that may initiate identity formation for prospective students and how students, particularly Black students, are recruited and admitted.

“This has implications for messaging and policies with engineering enrollment management organizations for interacting with our admissions colleagues, community members and prospective students,” Hughes said. 

As former engineering enrollment management professionals, Hughes and Roberts worked together for nearly five years in outreach-to-recruitment pipeline roles at a land-grant institution and believed they had a unique perspective through which to examine this issue. 

“In our work together, we saw several of the challenges we discussed in this paper, and we wanted to demonstrate these issues through a rigorous review of the existing work in the field,” Hughes said. “Most importantly, we wanted to bring these issues to light so that they can be addressed empirically in future engineering education research.” 

This paper is an extension of Hughes’ overall research agenda, which includes a focus on community-engaged approaches to educational equity and access in STEM education, college recruitment and K-12 outreach practices for historically minoritized groups in STEM, culturally sustaining STEM outreach program evaluation and rural social psychology in educational contexts. 

She chose NC State’s College of Education to pursue this work as a doctoral student, she said, because of the college’s outward commitment to examining and fostering inclusive and diverse educational environments for students. 
“I am deeply connected to the idea that higher education should be a place of outward connection-building to the broader community, which has been a centerpiece of my experience in the program and is consistently demonstrated by various faculty members and centers within the college, such as the work of my faculty advisor, Associate Professor DeLeon Gray, and the work of the Friday Institute for Educational Innovation,” Hughes said.