Date of Award

5-2013

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Legacy Department

Human Centered Computing

Advisor

Gilbert, Juan E.

Committee Member

Daily , Shaundra

Committee Member

Babu , Sabarish

Committee Member

Pargas , Roy R

Abstract

This dissertation presents the design, development and short-term evaluation of an embodied conversational agent designed to mentor human users. An embodied conversational agent (ECA) was created and programmed to mentor African American computer science majors on their decision to pursue graduate study in computing. Before constructing the ECA, previous research in the fields of embodied conversational agents, relational agents, mentorship, telementorship and successful mentoring programs and practices for African American graduate students were reviewed. A survey used to find areas of interest of the sample population. Experts were then interviewed to collect information on those areas of interest and a dialogue for the ECA was constructed based on the interview's transcripts. A between-group, mixed method experiment was conducted with 37 African American male undergraduate computer science majors where one group used the ECA mentor while the other group pursued mentoring advice from a human mentor. Results showed no significant difference between the ECA and human mentor when dealing with career mentoring functions. However, the human mentor was significantly better than the ECA mentor when addressing psychosocial mentoring functions.

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