2021 EDSIG Proceedings: Abstract Presentation

Engagement Fellowship Program: Adapting the IT Project Management Environment through the Pandemic

Danielle Znutas
Quinnipiac University

Kiku Jones
Quinnipiac University

Julia Fullick-Jagiela
Quinnipiac University

The global pandemic drastically impacted our lives and drove shifts in our social and economic climate, reinventing the way we live, learn, and work. For educators, it posed the question of how to provide an engaging and impactful education in a modified learning environment. One innovative program, the Engagement Fellowship program, which allowed nominated students a professional development opportunity to work closely with students and faculty throughout the semester, attempted to help address this question. This program empowers engagement fellows to take on leadership roles, be a liaison between professors and students, and provide input on how to promote an active learning environment. Creating an engaging environment was critical as half the students attended in person while the remaining learned virtually via synchronous Zoom. Engagement fellows were equipped with tools and techniques regarding engagement, course and time management, team dynamics, providing effective feedback, having courageous conversations, practicing empathy, emotional intelligence, and conflict resolution. This enabled them to be a better resource to both students and professors. Engagement fellows were highly invested in not just their own learning, but in the learning and support of others. Engagement fellows critically assess their own reasoning processes, identified and engaged honestly with biases, and revised judgments and reasoning processes following individual reflection and through systematic discussion with others. Each week, the professor and the engagement fellow met to discuss the lesson plan, reflect on the hybrid environment, and talk about numerous ways they could assist students to facilitate a better understanding of the material. The responsibilities of an engagement fellow went beyond assisting professors. They were also a great support system for the students. The pandemic not only altered the physical structure of the learning environment, but also added various degrees of additional stress and anxiety. This needed to be acknowledged as lessons were planned and taught, since the success and emotional well-being of each student was the most important role of an engagement fellow. Being able to check in with students, listen to their concerns, and provide them with guidance and access to the right tools was crucial. At the end of the semester, engagement fellows’ success in the classroom was measured using three criteria. First, each engagement fellow had to create a reflection video discussing what they learned, how they excelled, areas of opportunity, and long-term goals. Second, students who worked with an engagement fellow were asked to participate in a survey to assess their performance and their impact on the course. Finally, each professor provided feedback on their overall performance. This paper will analyze the deployment of an engagement fellow in the IT Project Management course. When looking at the combination of the testimonials, the results demonstrated positive support for the program. Looking forward, the Engagement Fellow program is now open to volunteers in an effort to empower more students with the opportunity to make a lasting impact within their college environment.