Assessing Educational Pathways For Manufacturing in Rural Communities

Summary/Overview, Goals, and TimelinE

Florida State University’s College of Communication and Information is teaming up with Chipola College to better prepare students for careers in advanced manufacturing.

A three-year study, funded with $800,000 from the National Science Foundation, will measure the effectiveness of the classroom-to-career path offered by advanced manufacturing programs at Chipola College and collaborating colleges in Northwest Florida.

Advanced manufacturing uses innovative technology to improve products or manufacturing processes. Researchers at FSU’s Information Institute aim to better align the curriculum with job requirements so graduates are fully prepared to meet employers’ needs.

This project is strongly aligned with the ATE program’s research goals to 1) simulate and support research on technician education in established and emerging advanced technology fields in STEM, and 2) build the partnership capacity between 2-year and 4-year institutions and universities to design and conduct research and development projects. The overarching goal of this project is to improve rural manufacturing capacity by better understanding the relationship between employers, employees, and curriculum in northwest Florida by pursuing the following research questions:  

  • RQ1. How do the AM competencies graduates gain through Associate’s level AM programs compare to the needs of employers?
  • RQ2. How do the AM competencies graduates gain through Associate’s level AM programs compare to the skill sets new professionals need?  
  • RQ3. What are the differences between the skills sets employers need and the skill sets new professionals report they need?
  • RQ4. How can AM curricula be modified to best meet the specific needs of AM employers and AM employees?    
  • RQ5. To what extent are AM graduates prepared to engage in entrepreneurial and intrapreneurial activities? 


Project Team

Dr. Marcia A. Mardis, Assistant Dean and Associate Professor, College of  Communication & Information, Florida State University (Co-PI) has a research specialty in creating technological opportunity in rural learning environments. Dr. Mardis directs the #1 ranked U.S. educational informatics program and is research faculty at two STEM research institutes. A Distinguished Research Fellow at Internet2 and the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR), Dr. Mardis is fluent in entrepreneurship education through her leading a  NSF ICorps team (NSF #1449622) and faculty consultation to Domi Station (FSU innovation incubator). Dr. Mardis will lead FSU’s activities and serve as co-lead researcher with Dr. Bouvin. Dr. Mardis codesigned and will lead the project’s replicated research approaches in text mining, qualitative methods, survey methods, and data integration.  

Dr. David Bouvin, Dean, School of Business and Technology, Chipola College (PI) has an established research agenda that includes data mining and research methods.  In addition to his current NSF ATE grant with the project team, Dr. Bouvin’s grant experience stems from National Security Agency (NSA) grants for information assurance, data analytics, and cyber security.  Dr. Bouvin has led STEM symposia throughout Florida and has recently published on the topics of advanced technology, virtual reality, and cloud computing with the NSA’s Colloquium for Information Systems Security Education, and the Information Systems Security Certification Consortium. Dr. Bouvin will provide overall project leadership, internal coordination at Chipola, and lead Chipola’s research activities. 

Dr. Faye M. Jones, Senior Research Associate, College of Communication & Information,  Florida State University (Co-PI) is Dr. Mardis’ research partner at FSU. She served as Project  Manager for the Women and Minorities Project with the Florida Center for Research in Science,  Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (FCR-STEM). Dr. Jones was a Fellow for the  National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES) and the Association for Institutional Research (AIR) with a focus on institutional and unit productivity in postsecondary institutions. She will serve as Research Manager and ensure that research objectives are carried out with fidelity.    

Dr. Charles M. McClure, Francis Eppes Professor and Information Institute Director, College of Communication & Information, Florida State University (Co-PI) is a nationally known scholar who has extensive experience in project evaluation, research methods, and program development. Lead PI on the Assessing IT Pathways project, Dr. McClure will work with the research team to ensure that research methods are conducted with fidelity and will also provide validation for research results and review research products.  

Mr. Darwin Gilmore, Dean of Workforce & Economic Development, School of Workforce & Economic Development, Chipola College (other personnel) has researched, funded, and implemented the Civil Engineering Technology and Engineering Technology programs at Chipola College.  Dean Gilmore is a member of the NWFMC, CareerSource Chipola, and the TRIUMPH team (BP Oil Fund stakeholder group).  Dean Gilmore will provide workforce engagement leadership, assist with recruitment of focus group and interviewee contacts, and assist with the organization and dissemination of information to the project stakeholders.    

Ms. J. V. Mathis, Grants Operations Coordinator, Compliance & Grants, Office of Assessment, Compliance & Grants, Chipola College (other personnel) has experience as a business & industry liaison for the Florida Manufacturing Technology Centers. Ms. Mathis will provide overall coordination for the Chipola team with local stakeholders and provide project management.    

Dr. Marilyn Barger, Executive Director, FLATE (strategic collaborator). FLATE is the NSFfunded Florida Regional Center of Advanced Technological Education. FLATE has served Florida and its region with outreach and student recruitment into technical career pathways; curriculum development and reform for secondary and post-secondary CTE programs; and professional development for technical teachers and faculty focused on advanced technologies. FLATE will contribute curriculum knowledge and best practices while gaining data to support research FLATE has contributed [e.g., 16]. Dr. Barger will work on research, evaluation, and outreach activities and will host project results and workshop curriculum at FLATE.



Dr. Flora McMartin, President, Broad-based Knowledge LLC (external project evaluator) has extensive experience as a program evaluator and will be able to determine benchmarks and indicators of success while evaluating this project. She has also worked with community college partners that have explored similar research questions. Experience relevant to this project includes: acting as the external evaluator on Assessing IT Pathways, conducting a national research study of curriculum and teaching practices associated with research methods; and evaluation of KEN– the math Knowledge Exchange Network, a California community college supported project funded by Hewlett and NSF. For the current project, her primary duties will be to review the research protocols, data collection instruments and processes to make recommendations for necessary changes or improvements.   


Advisory Committee

The nature of technology and education fields requires input from their leaders. The Advisory Board reflects local leaders with technical, educational, and industry expertise.
Dan Busse, Dean, Workforce Education, Pensacola State College  
Cheryl Flax-Hyman, Vice President, Institutional Effectiveness & Strategic Planning, Gulf Coast State College  
Andrew Fleener, Owner, Fleener’s Cleaners, and Member, Washington County Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors  
Rick Frazier, Director, Business and Industry Service Center, Tallahassee Community College  
Lucas Lindsey, Executive Director, Domi Station (FSU-sponsored small business incubator)  
Tom Norman, CTE Manufacturing Specialist, Florida Department of Education (invited)
Ed Phelan, Chairman, Northwest Florida Manufacturers Council  
Dennis Sherwood, Dean of Career and Technical Education, Northwest Florida State College  
Richard Williams, Exec. Director, CareerSource Chipola; Representative, Opportunity Florida



Partnerships and collaborations with the Northwest Florida Manufacturers Council, FLATE, regional state colleges, and entrepreneurs will build stronger partnerships that inform the curriculum and relationship between the college and its partners.  NWFMC represents 47 regional manufacturers who will benefit from the data and a better understanding of education delivery and methodology and the potential impacts of internships, on-the-job training, and mentorships that expand the employers’ understanding of a student’s skills and productivity abilities. 

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