Professors as Role Models and Student Expectations

Emily Case

Authors:  Emily Case

Faculty Mentor: Saygin Perihan

College:  College of Liberal Arts and Sciences


In the world of education, role-model effects typically involve a teacher, professor, or mentor (the role model), and students (those who benefit from the role model). The existing research in this area focuses on who role-model effects benefit and what the results of the effect mean for gender differences in education. Positive role-model effects of professors on undergraduate students’ expectations about their futures may help reduce the gender gap in education. To study this question, an electronic questionnaire was administered to University of Florida economics majors in Spring 2020, asking about students’ expectations about the labor force. Data from completed questionnaires was used to regress aspirations about the labor force, measured by asking students the percent likelihood that they would feel accepted, enjoy, and earn an acceptable amount in a certain field, on the gender proportion of students’ reported favorite professors. Publicly provided professor evaluations serve as proxies to determine if a professor excelling at their job has more of an effect than does their gender. The resulting regression conclusions aim to predict the effects of a faculty role model “like you” on a student’ beliefs and expectations about the labor force.

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17 Responses
  1. Ollie Trac

    Hi! This is a neat poster – I was wondering what implications and future directions you may have regarding this topic and the results? Also, what motivated you to conduct this type of study? Thanks 🙂

    1. Emily Case

      Thanks Eli! I will probably step back from this particular problem for a while, however at the moment I plan to continue researching gender differences in education and the labor force 🙂

  2. James Shepperd

    Bummer not getting the data you wanted. I did a study recently where I needed faculty teaching evaluations. I was able to pull it from a UF webpage that did not require me to make a records request through the registrar’s office.

    1. Emily Case

      Hi James! I was able to pull it from the website as well, but it was incredibly tedious. The only reason I was able to do it was because my sample size was small enough. I would have much preferred that they sent it to me in a condensed file! I made do though 🙂

  3. Emily Case

    Hi Ollie! Thanks so much!

    I was inspired to research this because in my own experience, I was able to more clearly envision my future as an economist when I had a female professor. This drastically shaped my expectations for after graduating from UF, and I wanted to see if other people experienced it as well.

    A recent paper released in the past couple of months actually researched a similar idea and found that having female STEM role models increased the likelihood that a female would pursue STEM. However, there is not much existing literature on how they affect expectations. I think if I had multiple years and a much larger data set, a correlation may have actually been found. I’m not sure if causation would be possible to find here, but it would be neat!

  4. Emily McHugh

    Emily, you did an awesome job presenting this! I was very interested with the questions you provided on the questionnaire and this topic in general! I really enjoyed listening to this presentation. Would you like to continue research in this area based on this study?

    1. Emily McHugh

      Emily, I just wanted to add that the previous comments on your poster just loaded so I was able to see the answer to the question that I asked! I see that you plan to investigate gender differences in education and the labor force. This sounds awesome!

    2. Emily Case

      Hello fellow Emily! Thanks! I will probably continue to dive into gender differences in education and the labor force as I work towards my PhD, not necessarily because of this study, I just find it really interesting!

      The questions on the survey geared towards expectations were phrased as percentages. For example, “What is the percent chance that you will feel accepted at a job in the social sciences field?”

  5. Lauren Weinsier

    Hi Emily! This is such an interesting topic. Why did you choose to sample only economics students? Due to the small number of participants (190), do you think you would have attained more accurate results with a larger sample? Further, why did you choose economics over other STEM subjects?

    1. Emily Case

      Hi Lauren, great questions. I chose economics students because I had better access to getting the survey out to them through the department head, Dr. Knight. Ideally, I would have done this with the entire university, or at least every department considered to be STEM, but it wasn’t feasible with the time limit. I do think I would have attained much different results with a larger sample, because the variation would be much higher.

  6. James Shepperd

    I know what you mean by tedious. I was able to get data from the registrar’s office on my study for one set of analyses I did, but it took 3 months from my original request before I received the data I requested. In the end, I should have just retrieved the data myself.

  7. Michelle Castro

    Hi Emily,

    I loved your poster! I also believe in a larger sample you would see some clearer results. Keep doing this work, it is important to keep thinking about this issue as some of us begin to enter the workplace and become mentors to a new generation of students!