2019 CoNECD - The Collaborative Network for Engineering and Computing Diversity

Dilemmas in Cocurricular Support: A Theoretical and Pragmatic Discussion on Current Practices and Future Challenges

Presented at Track: Collegiate - Technical Session 3

Colleges of engineering seeking to promote equity, diversity, and inclusion often do so through co-curricular support, scholarships, and supplemental instruction. Substantial education research has focused on documenting the structure and effectiveness of such practices, primarily from a pragmatic perspective highlighting programmatic features or documenting assessment results. Building on these efforts, our research team is working towards clarifying and critiquing the strategic aims and nuanced choices involved with crafting such initiatives. In this paper, we use collaborative inquiry methodology to identify key dilemmas associated with enhancing the inclusivity of institutional support. We reflect on aspects including program participation, structure, advertisements, messages, recruitment. The results highlight subtle ways that well-intentioned practitioners can further marginalize students from underrepresented populations in engineering by not considering dimensions of inclusion, including gender identity and expression, race and ethnicity, disability, LGBTQ+, first-generation status, and socio-economic status.

In our interactive conference session, we use our proposed framework to reflect ways of crafting increasingly inclusive co-curricular support structures and practices. In collaboration with session participants, we will identify key dilemmas, such as:

• How to support gender non-binary students when program structures often reify binary categories of women and men;

• How to reach students in marginalized identity categories who do not wish to be associated with a particular identity by participating;

• How to acknowledge and support hidden and intersectional identity groups within program structures that organize around single shared identities;

We invite co-curricular support practitioners and other stakeholders to participate in our reflective dialogue around theoretical and practical dilemmas in co-curricular support. In addition to considering collective dilemmas as important new foci for research and practice, we will collectively brainstorm possible new approaches and structures to account for these dilemmas. We hope the ongoing dialogue initiated by this conversation will spark creative solutions and spur transformation across many local settings.

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  • Broadening Participation in Engineering and Engineering Technology