The Party’s Over: Sustaining Support Programs When the Funding is Done
ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Conference Proceedings, June 22 - 25, 2008, Pittsburgh, PA.
In the lifecycle of an engineering education grant, the phase where best practices are sustained and disseminated is perhaps the most crucial stage for maximizing impact. Yet this transition phase often receives the least attention as project team enthusiasm can wane, while funding tapers off, and faculty priorities are pulled in other directions. There are numerous obstacles associated with sustaining program changes, even those perceived as very valuable. Typical challenges are: What happens when the funding runs out? What grant-developed programs should be sustained by the university? Does the institution need to internally allocate resources in an annual budget large enough to replace the grant?
Ultimately, sustaining successful programmatic improvements is about “change management” in an institution. In this paper, we will review the literature relating to institutional change in engineering education. We will build on current curriculum change models, in the context of a major engineering education grant at Boise State University that included a variety of curricular enhancements, academic support, and outreach efforts. Over the past two years, the project team focused considerable effort on institutionalizing the most successful programs, and met with mixed results. While many programs will continue and benefit students long-term, other programs, even ones with stellar success and solid assessment, have not been entirely adopted for a number of reasons that we will examine. We will review the role assessment played in the process of program transfer (from the grant to the university) and lessons learned about building alliances with other campus partners to achieve university-level buy-in, well before the last stage of the grant. Finally, we will discuss two factors that are not identified in institutional change literature, but that contributed significantly to the successful transition of our programs—the importance of taking a research based approach, and flexibility in time and resource allocation.