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Change Agents for Broadening Participation in Engineering: A System Analysis of Deans, Faculty, and Engineering Student Support Center Administrators

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2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 23, 2018

Start Date

June 23, 2018

End Date

July 27, 2018

Conference Session

Engineering Education Graduate Research Consortium (EEGRC) Poster Session

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Higher education and the current university is a complex system and underrepresentation of minoritized groups in engineering is a complex issue. A response to this complex issue is addressed by Diversity Engineering Programs, or Engineering Student Support Programs for underrepresented groups are managed and directed by administration (directors and assistant directors) that are critical to the ongoing initiatives to broaden participation in engineering. These programs encompass initiatives such as summer bridge programming for preparation of the first year, to peer mentoring. The programs that are coordinated through underrepresented engineering program offices are responses to the conditions of a university. These offices are representative of collaborative efforts among various change agents within the university including the administrators of the offices, deans of engineering, and faculty in engineering. Administrators are responsible for the creation, implementation, and evaluation of programs designed to broaden participation at various levels, from K-12 to degree completion at the undergraduate level. Deans of engineering colleges establish, promote, and articulate a shared vision for an engineering college in regards to diversification of faculty, students, and staff. As mid-level placements in an academic administrative system, they facilitate between presidential initiatives, faculty governance, and student needs; serving as a link between senior administration and faculty. Faculty play an integral role in change agency related to broadening participation of underrepresented groups as well. Through facilitation of inclusive pedagogy in the classroom, contact through undergraduate research and faculty that promotes student success, through service, and participation in diversity engineering programs in K- 12 and undergraduate initiatives to recruit and retain underrepresented groups in engineering. The agents described routinely operate in conditions of fluctuating change, dependent on political and cultural shifts of state government, affirmative action challenges, and changing institutional values for diversity and inclusion. A critical look at current operational practices that affect change agents’ participation will be necessary to respond to the diversity demand. Previous work has highlighted the successful components of Diversity Engineering Programs, however a gap in knowledge exists regarding the experiences of change agents actively involved in related initiatives in engineering education. Institutions are dynamic systems that expand and retract; dependent on internal and external inputs and outputs. The process of change in an institutional perspective involves a change to long standing missions that are indicative of the context of the institution. This study seeks to provide an overview of the system dynamics present in which change agents operate. An evaluation of this kind allows for systems engineering principles to be applied to a complex change process - broadening participation of underrepresented groups in engineering. For change agents and stakeholders in this process, this study has the potential to provide a systems level analysis using existing policy data as well as experiential data from individuals embedded within the system in which the problem of underrepresentation exists. Qualitative data concerning the practices currently in place to support and inadvertently hinder change agents will result in a deeper understanding of systemic procedures, culture, and policies that may be working against the mission of broadening participation of underrepresented students in engineering

(2018, June), Change Agents for Broadening Participation in Engineering: A System Analysis of Deans, Faculty, and Engineering Student Support Center Administrators Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah.

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