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A New Change Model for Recruitment and Retention of Underrepresented Groups in STEM

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2021 CoNECD


Virtual - 1pm to 5pm Eastern Time Each Day

Publication Date

January 24, 2021

Start Date

January 24, 2021

End Date

January 28, 2021

Conference Session

CoNECD Session : Day 2 Slot 5 Technical Session 4

Tagged Topics

Diversity and CoNECD Paper Submissions

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Paper Authors


Laura Bottomley North Carolina State University

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Dr. Laura Bottomley, Teaching Associate Professor of Electrical Engineering and Elementary Education, is also the Director of Women in Engineering and The Engineering Place at NC State University. She has been working in the field of engineering education for over 20 years. She is dedicated to conveying the joint messages that engineering is a set of fields that can use all types of minds and every person needs to be literate in engineering and technology. She is an ASEE and IEEE Fellow and PAESMEM awardee.

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Engineers tend to understand the world by making models. We design a model bridge and test it with heavy loads or put a model house through a simulated hurricane. We use Matlab to define a communications link and test it under various conditions with different input data. Our ability to draw accurate conclusions from these tests is tied directly to how good our models are. When we think about women and underrepresented minorities in STEM, and how we are going to increase their numbers, the model that we typically use is that of a pipeline. The pipeline has shown up many times in papers from the psychology literature to ACM, IEEE and ASEE. This model has led us to suppose that the necessary approach to diversification is to work in the K-12 space to do more to fill the pipeline. But, in fact, for the last twenty years, there has been an army of ASEE members doing just that. And doing it well. Then, when talking about women and girls, we came up with the idea of the “leaky” pipeline. Leaky pipes are repaired with duct tape. That means we just find the leaks and stop them up by having programs at key juncture points for young people. This model has shaped everything we do and led us to develop programs very much about getting kids excited and then equipping them with the tools they need to weather the journey through the pipe. History has shown, however, a consistent deficit in the percentages of women and folks from certain ethnicities. There have been discussions of pathway models, highways with entrance and exit routes to account for transfer possibilities, but no model has led to any great epiphany that has effected great change. Women remain at some 20% of engineering students and underrepresented minorities around 10%. What if this is the wrong model? It has led us to develop programs that apply “treatments” to the students and potential students, depending on our objectives. We essentially conduct programs with the aim of changing the students so that they will fit into the engineering world in one way or another, whether that is learning sufficient math or learning how to deal with bias and harassment. Suppose, rather than a pipeline, we consider the diversification of STEM through the lens of a garden. This paper will discuss a new model that leads to different types of programming that can have a significant effect on increasing diversity and inclusion.

Bottomley, L. (2021, January), A New Change Model for Recruitment and Retention of Underrepresented Groups in STEM Paper presented at 2021 CoNECD, Virtual - 1pm to 5pm Eastern Time Each Day .

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