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"A New Way of Seeing": Engagement With Women’s and Gender Studies Fosters Engineering Identity Formation

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2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual Conference

Publication Date

July 26, 2021

Start Date

July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

Conference Session

'Diversity' and Inclusion? Pedagogy, Experiences, Language and Performative Action

Tagged Division

Liberal Education/Engineering & Society

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Paper Authors


Jenn Stroud Rossmann Lafayette College

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Jenn Stroud Rossmann is Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Co-Director of the Hanson Center for Inclusive STEM Education at Lafayette College. She earned her BS in mechanical engineering and the PhD in applied physics from the University of California, Berkeley. Prior to joining Lafayette, she was a faculty member at Harvey Mudd College. Her scholarly interests include the fluid dynamics of blood in vessels affected by atherosclerosis and aneurysm, the cultural history of engineering, and the aerodynamics of sports projectiles.

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Mary A. Armstrong Lafayette College

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Mary A. Armstrong is Charles A. Dana Professor of Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies and English at Lafayette College, where she also chairs the Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies Program.

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Despite widespread appreciation of the importance of diverse participation in engineering, persistent biases and systemic disadvantages continue to impede the flourishing of students with historically excluded identities. We investigate the influence of a STEM-themed Women’s and Gender Studies course on the identity formation and sense of belonging of a group of engineering students. Through survey responses and focus group discussions, this study qualitatively investigates how STEM-themed coursework in WGS may influence the attitudes, perspectives, and identity formation of marginalized engineering students. In our interviews, students reported finding WGS coursework to be empowering, liberatory, and strengthening of their engineering confidence and preparedness. Providing students with the critical frameworks, interdisciplinary methods, and conceptual vocabulary associated with WGS can positively influence students' engineering identity formation and support underrepresented students’ sense of belonging in engineering. Understanding personal challenges as systemic rather than individual, and recognizing the social construction of engineering knowledge, were so valuable that respondents recommended WGS coursework be required for all engineering students. Our results suggest that the disciplines of gender studies and critical race theory may be powerful avenues to advance the agency and thriving of diverse engineering students.

Rossmann, J. S., & Armstrong, M. A. (2021, July), "A New Way of Seeing": Engagement With Women’s and Gender Studies Fosters Engineering Identity Formation Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference. 10.18260/1-2--36526

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