Both a Culmination and a Transition

by grouperlab

The following is from Jeremi London, our most recent GROUPER alumna (deposited her MS thesis in April, now continuing her PhD in Engineering Education at Purdue, where she was jointly enrolled).  Edits only for grammar and clarity.  –BSC


It is Wednesday, May 22, 2013. My bags are packed. The conference is over. It’s time to leave the ocean views of San Juan, Puerto Rico and return to the orchards and cornfields of the Midwest.


The conclusion of the 5-day IIE conference doubles as the culmination of an endeavor I started a few years ago. In many ways, this is both an endpoint and a transition. That makes this juncture in time an ideal one for reflection. In this blog, I will highlight what I worked on as a Masters student and share what’s next. I will spend the majority of the time reflecting on what it is like to be in GROUPER and how this relates to what it means to be a GROUPER.


My name is Jeremi London. I recently defended and deposited my Master’s thesis entitled, “Analysis and Modeling of Learning Outcome Mappings in Engineering Education”. As part of my thesis, I used archival data, survey results, and simulation software to understand the relationship between three sets of learning outcomes and to model how these outcomes relate over time. Now that my Master’s in Industrial Engineering is complete, my primary focus is on completing my dissertation and graduating next summer with a Ph.D. in Engineering Education (also from Purdue). Many elements of my experience in GROUPER have contributed to my personal and professional development, and add to the foundation upon which I will build my future successes.


Weekly one-on-one meetings with Dr. C throughout the academic year are central to what it means to be in GROUPER. Each meeting began with a simple question, “What would you like to talk about today?” While the startup is pretty predictable, I never knew where the conversation would end or what intellectual escapade(s) would get us there. It was in my one-on-ones that I heard witty phrases like: “Read widely; question deeply,” and “That’s so pretty” (which often means that Dr. C has an awesome, multi-dimensional visual in his mind that depicts the current topic of discussion).


After years of engaging in these one-on-one experiences, I have a greater appreciation for mentoring the next generation, for allocating time to scholarly discourse/interactions, and for the process of graduate engineering education in general. As a result of this experience, it is much easier for me to pause periodically, allow my thoughts to roam from one connection to another, and have confidence in the value of the ideas that come to mind.  In my opinion, the greatest hallmark of what it means to be a GROUPER is the ability to “scan and connect.” One-on-ones with Dr. C contribute to the development of this skill.


Engaging in experiences that form the camaraderie that exists among GROUPERs is also central to what it means to be in GROUPER. During the weekly lab meetings, I heard about the fascinating projects that others were working on. This was also a time to discuss important topics related to successfully completing grad school, and to receive encouragement/advice from peers on how to deal with the most recent “hot mess” that came up during the process of conducting our research.


Another activity that allowed us to build camaraderie was each semester’s G4 (i.e., GROUPER group get together). Undoubtedly, the trust grew as we engaged in the engineering design task of developing a potluck menu that minimizes allergy-related risks, incorporates everyone’s dietary preferences, and maximizes the likelihood that you’ll be asked to bring that dish to the next G4. It was over good food that we meet members of one another’s family, exchanged childhood stories, revealed hobbies, and daydreamed about having a G5 someday (i.e., a global G4) as the number of GROUPERs from countries other than the U.S. increases.


The combination of lab meetings and G4s have taught me how to balance work and play, and has encouraged me consider blurring the lines at times –in contexts like these and others. In light of this, to be a GROUPER means that you can manage tensions between notions that initially may seem contradictory.


The last activity that comes with being in GROUPER is participation in a research community that extends beyond Purdue. Of course, the idea of matriculating into a research community by engaging in conference-related activities is not unique to GROUPER. I attended the 2012 HFES conference in Boston, and participated in the 2013 IIE / ISERC conference. Both experiences were valuable, but IIE was more impactful. By participating in the conference, my critical thinking skills improved; I have gotten better at tailoring my writing style to an audience; and I have a better estimate of how long and what it really takes to complete a writing task – well. It’s hard to describe the validation that comes from having papers accepted, presenting my work before an audience of credible scholars, and stimulating thought-provoking questions and conversations among colleagues. It is also nice to establish new networks (with GROUPER alumni or other IE researchers) and discuss possible collaborations over dinner. Again, much of what I have described is not specific to GROUPER. However, my experience in GROUPER will always be associated with my socialization in the IE community because it provided the context for the development of my identity as an IE scholar.


This brings me back to where this reflection started.  While in GROUPER, I have developed as an individual, as a team player, and as a member of the IE research community. These three aspects of my development converged this week in San Juan. In this way, having the opportunity to participate in IIE was both a culmination of an experience I started a few years and a nice transition to what’s next.