Eric Jankowski1 Sara Hagenah1 Liz Neeley2

1, Boise State University, Boise, Idaho, United States
2, The Story Collider, Washington, District of Columbia, United States

Establishing Identity is at the core of the Chickering model of professional development and prior work has shown that underrepresented engineering students are more likely to be retained and graduated if students identify as a member of their major. In this work, we use a one-assignment intervention in a Junior-level materials thermodynamics course to test the hypothesis "Writing a true, personal story about a time thermodynamics happened improves self-identification as a materials scientist." We measure student attitudes with a Likert-scale survey before and after the assignment. Preliminary results show that of all the attitudes surveyed, the only measurable change is an increase in agreement with the statement "I identify as a materials scientist."

We discuss the impact of hosting a public Story Collider show with stories curated from the in-class assignment. We find that the attendees of the storytelling show were surprised to be emotionally affected by student stories, that the event catalyzed department discussions for how to better support students, and provided a unique forum for engagement between students, facutly, and the public. In aggregate, we find that narrative-focused activities have high potential to improve student self-identification with their professon through metacognition, with potential for increased retention of underrepresented engineering students. In parallel, the public storytelling events hold promise for improving culture, climate, and caring between stakeholders in a materials science and engineering department.