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Karis Boyd-Sinkler Receives 2018 NSF Graduate Research Fellowship

Karis Boyd-Sinkler

Karis Boyd-Sinkler, of Hampton, VA, has received a National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship to support her graduate work at Virginia Tech, where she is a Ph.D. student in engineering education.

The NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP)  "help ensure the vitality and diversity of the scientific and engineering workforce of the United States," according to its website. "The program recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students who are pursuing research-based master's and doctoral degrees in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) or in STEM education. The GRFP provides three years of support for the graduate education of individuals who have demonstrated their potential for significant research achievements in STEM or STEM education."

For her GRFP application, Karis submitted a proposal to explore diversity-focused engineering societies as communities of practice. The purpose of her research will be to understand the various roles those organizations play in creating a sense of belonging and engagement for their undergraduate members.  In her application, she focused on the American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES), the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE), the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE), and the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) as they are the founding organizations and driving forces of the 50K Coalition, a collaboration with 40+ organizations to annually produce 50,000 diverse engineers by 2025.

Karis' goal is to understand each of these organizations and to help other societies/organizations as well as universities who are interested in diversifying and increasing the success of their student population.  "I'm really interested in understanding what is it about these organizations that keeps students, like myself, as well as professionals involved in their efforts aimed at broadening participation," she says.

Karis is advised by Dr. Walter Lee, an assistant professor in the Department of Engineering Education.  “Karis is extremely passionate about broadening participation in STEM and joined our Ph.D. program intent on finding and creating opportunities to do so," says Dr. Lee.  "Her commitment to diversity and passion for education research have directed her towards a focus on student-led efforts, such as the National Society of Black Engineers.  Karis’s research will focus on understanding how students from underrepresented groups can lead change in engineering education when empowered, as opposed to merely viewing them as recipients of support.  This honor is well deserved!”

In the full announcement from the National Science Foundation, Jim Lewis who is the acting assistant director for Education and Human resources was quoted as saying, “To support U.S. leadership and innovation in science and engineering, we must recognize and nurture talent from all of our nation’s communities.  I am pleased that again this year, the competition has selected talented students from all economic backgrounds and all demographic categories.”

The National Science Foundation received more than 12,000 applications and made 2,000 offers, according to the agency's website.

"I am ecstatic and honored to be selected as a GRFP recipient," said Karis. "I absolutely love working with students and this fellowship will help me further link research to practice as a continuous feedback loop."


Written by Linda Hazelwood