Lack of diversity in engineering is a persistent problem both at industry and collegiate levels. Defined here as individual qualities divergent from historical characteristics (or even stereotypes) of engineers, diversity, at times, seems to be at odds with the culture of engineering itself. Lack of diversity in engineering manifests in a decreased retention rate of underrepresented minorities and women pursuing engineering degrees and engineering careers, and in a culture of homogeneity in engineering education and professional practice. This homogeneous culture is a detriment to inclusive engineering practice and products. Diversity improves inclusivity and can provide a competitive advantage in industry .
One potential solution to this problem is the integration of diversity education into engineering curriculum at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Diversity education here includes courses addressing the culture and social context of engineering, the disparate outcomes of engineers belonging to groups traditionally underrepresented in engineering, and inclusive engineering practice. Courses such as these would help students contextualize their experiences and those of others in a larger body of knowledge about human interaction and would make a statement about institutional values of inclusion. This paper examines one such course offered at University X in winter quarter of 2017 as a case study.
This conference paper, authored by a former student of the class and the class instructors, relates the course experience from a first-hand perspective and evaluates several course aspects, including its impact and efficacy. This paper also provides effect practices for engagement and areas for improvement as evidenced by the case study. This paper has a specific focus on inclusivity, which is the ability of students of all backgrounds to engage meaningfully with the course. Since the goal of such courses is to attract students with a range of experiences and backgrounds, inclusivity in every course component is critical.
This paper offers a comprehensive evaluation of the course at the center of this case study, drawing from student survey data, firsthand observations, and relevant literature. Questions that this paper will address include: How did this course differ from more "traditional" engineering courses? In what ways was the course successful? In what ways was it unsuccessful? What were the most effective practices and pedagogies developed from this course? The paper concludes with a commentary on the course's relevance for engineering faculty and industry professionals who are examining these types of learning experiences and with potential directions for future research.
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