Before becoming faculty, Professor Engstrom was a student affairs administrator for over 14 years at four different institutions. She worked in residence life, greek life, student activities, multicultural education, and a dean of students office.
Engstrom and her colleague, Vincent Tinto, have co-directed a multiyear study, funded by the Lumina Foundation for Education and Hewlett Foundation, to study the impact of learning communities and collaborative learning strategies on unprepared students in urban community and state colleges. This study seeks to provide evidence to a national audience about innovative programs that “work” and reshape current policy debates about curricular and other programs important in promoting the success of under-prepared students in higher education. Interwoven in her research work are issues of representation, diversity, power and authority, collaboration, and learning including her work on student-academic affairs partnerships, innovative pedagogies to promote student learning, particularly for the emerging and changing student populations (e.g. service- learning, learning communities), and experiences of women student affairs administrators.
Engstrom has also taken her commitments to professional association work seriously. She has chaired the Commission of Professional Preparation (ACPA), served as a member of the editorial board for the Journal of College Student Development, and chaired the Research Division for NASPA. She was also a member of the 2007 Joint ACPA-NASPA Meeting Program Committee and Director of ACPA’s Core Council on Generation and Dissemination of Knowledge.