Graduation Date



Reduced motivation and low self-success beliefs caused by social factors, cultural factors, and the perception of the dissertation writing process attribute to the attrition of underrepresented students from doctoral engineering programs. Minority doctoral attrition in engineering undermines the aim to diversify the engineering field in industry and academia. The Dissertation Institute (DI) is a one-week writing intervention designed to combat minority doctoral attrition. A key component of this intervention is the daily facilitated writing groups called “Writing Clusters.” The writing group sessions were recorded, transcribed, and analyzed using subjective value tasks from Eccles’ Expectancy Value Theory to determine how the writing group environment with peers from an underrepresented group affected each student’s motivation, success beliefs, and individual perception of the dissertation writing process. It was found that once the participants dismantled the cost and understood the utility and interest of the tasks required to complete their dissertation, they were able to build their success beliefs in their writing and increase their motivation to progress in their dissertation process.

Student Author Biography

Deionjalei Miller received a B.S. in Chemical Engineering with a minor Chemistry in May 2021 from Virginia Tech. She served as a qualitative and mixed methods research assistant in the Engineering Education Department at Virginia Tech. Her research focused on engineering doctoral student motivation and self-efficacy. She also served as a Meta PREM research assistant at Norfolk State University Center for Materials Research in 2017 where she focused on the efficiency of plasmonic systems. She worked as process engineer co-op with WestRock and Marathon Petroleum before graduating. Deionjalei is now a supply chain leader at Frito-Lay in Charlotte, NC. Dr. Mayra S. Artiles is an assistant professor in the Engineering Education Department at Arizona State University. She has a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez and an M.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Purdue University with a focus on nanotechnology. Before completing her PhD. in Engineering Education, she worked at Ford Motor Company as an Electrified Vehicles Thermal Engineer for four years. Mayra has collaborated in research projects on diversity in engineering, institutional support for minority students, intercultural competency development in engineering students, and doctoral student motivation. Her current research focuses on understanding the role of institutional policies in doctoral student persistence. Dr. Holly Matusovich is a Professor in the Department of Engineering Education. She has formerly served as Assistant Department Head for Undergraduate Programs and Assistant Department Head for Graduate Programs. Dr. Matusovich is recognized for her research and practice related to graduate student mentoring. She won the Hokie Supervisor Spotlight Award in 2014, was nominated for a Graduate Advising Award in 2015, and won the 2018 Graduate Student Mentor Award for the College of Engineering. Across all of her research avenues, Dr. Matusovich has been a PI/Co-PI on 12 funded research projects including the NSF CAREER Award, with her share of funding being nearly $2.3 million. She has co-authored 2 book chapters, 21 journal publications, and more than 70 conference papers. She has won several Virginia Tech awards, including a Dean’s Award for Outstanding New Faculty, and Outstanding Teacher Award, and a Faculty Fellow Award.


Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) 2019, Deionjalei A. Miller, Mayra S. Artiles, Holly M. Matusovich