INDIANAPOLIS—Stephanie Andel, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the Department of Psychology, is the first IUPUI faculty member to be named the recipient of the Ralph E. Powe Junior Faculty Enhancement Award. The award encourages the enrichment of research skills and professional growth among young faculty members at Oak Ridge Associated Universities (ORAU).
Supporting the mental health of early-career faculty in STEM is more critical now than ever, and I am passionate about helping to connect the dots between mental health, well-being, and retention.Stephanie Andel, Ph.D.
“I am very proud to have been the first IUPUI faculty member to receive the Powe Junior Faculty Enhancement Award,” said Andel. “Supporting the mental health of early-career faculty in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) is more critical now than ever, and I am passionate about helping to connect the dots between mental health, well-being, and retention. It is an honor to have the support of the ORAU and IUPUI in this endeavor.”
Andel received $5,000 to work on research, launching in early September, to examine the effectiveness of self-compassion as a strategy for reducing the negative effects of “imposter syndrome”. Her data collection will take approximately three months to complete.
“The study will track the work experiences of approximately 300 early-career faculty in STEM fields over the course of a semester to examine whether self-compassion serves as a personal resource for reducing the negative effects of imposter syndrome on burnout, mental health symptoms, and intentions to quit. The study will also examine whether any observed effects differ across genders,” explained Andel.
“Imposter syndrome” is not actually a syndrome, but instead is a feeling that one is an intellectual “fraud” or imposter in their given field of work or study. Andel was inspired to dive deeper into this phenomenon as it is one of the more pervasive experiences early-career academics encounter, particularly those who are underrepresented in their disciplines.
“For instance, in the context of STEM fields, existing research has found that imposter syndrome is quite prevalent among women, which is perhaps unsurprising given a myriad of systemic issues (e.g., hiring discrimination, unwelcoming academic climates, few support networks) that contribute to women’s underrepresentation in these fields,” said Andel. “Given the detrimental health and career outcomes associated with imposter syndrome, identifying approaches that mitigate these ill effects for early-career academic faculty is crucial to retention. Our study examines the role of self-compassion as one potential coping strategy.”
Andel says this study is an addition to other research, work, and activism happening now to address the aforementioned systematic issues that are likely to contribute to disproportionate feelings of imposterism among underrepresented groups.
“Those efforts should be seen as critical and important work, as the key to truly eradicating imposter syndrome (particularly among underrepresented groups) is to address the roots of the problem, such as by combatting hiring discrimination, fostering more inclusive academic climates, and promoting a shared sense of belonging. The current study does not intend to replace those important efforts – rather, it seeks to provide coping strategies for those who are already experiencing feelings of imposterism,” said Andel.