For Walter Lee, an aspiration to "uncover information that will better inform university efforts to support undergraduate engineering students, particularly students of color," led to a Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program award from the National Science Foundation (NSF).

Lee’s five-year project, “Responsive Support Structures for Marginalized Students: A Critical Interrogation of Navigational Strategies,” will contribute to  further understanding of how marginalized students navigate undergraduate engineering programs and seek help. 

Universities make an effort to extend student support towards increasing retention and graduation rates among engineering students. At Virginia Tech, this effort is led by the Center for the Enhancement of Engineering Diversity, for which Lee serves as Assistant Director for Research.

According to Lee, prior research work "reveals the need for more responsive student support tailored to individual students' needs." Lee's research will compare support systems and navigational strategies for undergraduate engineering students across multiple institutions and examine students' perspectives on how effective and appropriate different navigational strategies are.

Through this project, Lee hopes that university investments and resources will be used more intentionally to broaden participation in engineering.

The NSF CAREER program is considered one of the most prestigious awards in support of early-career faculty who have the “potential to serve as academic role models in research and education and to lead advances in the mission of their department or organization.”