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Combining Forces: Putting Equity to Work

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2022 CoNECD (Collaborative Network for Engineering & Computing Diversity)


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

February 20, 2022

Start Date

February 20, 2022

End Date

July 20, 2022

Conference Session

Technical Session 8 - Paper 1: Combining Forces: Putting Equity to Work

Tagged Topics

Diversity and CoNECD Paper Sessions

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Paper Authors


Fatima Alleyne University of California, Berkeley

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Fatima Alleyne, Ph.D., is the director of Community Engagement and Inclusive Practices in the College of Engineering at UC Berkeley. She brings her passion and love for science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) and education into her work to develop programs that promote equity; foster a positive, inclusive culture; and increase access and opportunities to those who have historically been underrepresented in STEM. She also leads a strategic planning and data-driven process to guide programs and priorities to advance diversity, equity and inclusion in the College. Fatima earned her Ph.D. and M.S. degrees in materials science and engineering from UC Berkeley and a B.A. in chemistry from City University of New York, Hunter College.

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Ricky Vides University of California, Berkeley

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Ricky Vides is the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion advisor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of California, Berkeley. He is also the staff director for the Combining Forces: Putting Equity to Work project. Ricky Vides is an alumnus of the University of California. He also received advanced degrees in Higher Education Student Development and Marriage and Family Therapy from Saint Mary's College of California.

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Grace D O'Connell University of California, Berkeley

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Grace O’Connell is the Associate Dean for Inclusive Excellence in the College of Engineering and Associate Professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of California, Berkeley. She is the co-director of the Berkeley Biomechanics Laboratory, and her research interests are in soft tissue mechanobiology and tissue engineering. O’Connell received a PhD in Bioengineering from the University of Pennsylvania in 2009, where her research focused on intervertebral disc biomechanics with age, degeneration, and injury. O’Connell’s research group employs computational modeling and experimental approaches to study the effect of aging and disease on tissue- and joint-level mechanobiology. She has received many awards including the 2019 YC Fung Young Investigator Award and NSF CAREER Award, and was inducted into the AIMBE College of Fellows in 2021.

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Keywords: engineering, pre-college, faculty, socio-economic status Title: Combining Forces: Putting Equity to Work There is a growing body of literature highlighting the importance of team diversity to improve innovation and work-group performance. K-12 outreach programs are a crucial part of diversifying the college STEM pipeline. However, this interest results in multiple programs being developed with overlapping missions, often with little communication between programs. In many higher education institutions, outreach efforts, mentorship, and recruitment of diverse students are often decentralized and siloed, resulting in an inefficient use of resources and difficulties in maintaining program longevity. Thus, it is not clear how effective these well intentioned programs are at advancing diversity, equity, inclusion, accessibility, and belonging within departments, colleges and schools, and across campus. For example, within the College of Engineering (COE) at the University of California, Berkeley (UCB) a myriad of programs have been implemented by individual faculty with duplication of efforts and a minimal increase in representation of diverse candidates in our undergraduate and graduate student populations. To foster multi-disciplinary and departmental collaborations, COE at UCB established a Faculty Engagement Fund (FEF) to centralize support and resources for the advancement of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). The objectives include: (1) assist COE faculty with the administrative burden of accessing and spending funds on DEI activities while developing outreach ideas to maximize impact; (2) encourage faculty to partner with each other and existing programs; (3) track and measure the impact of COE efforts; and (4) help faculty strengthen their research proposals to external agencies. Since the program’s inception, the FEF has served seven faculty and one department in the development of proposals to advance DEI initiatives totaling approximately half a million dollars. These initiatives spanned K-12 and college level programming. In this abstract, we highlight the data-driven and collaborative approach undertaken by faculty and staff in the Department of Mechanical Engineering (ME) at UC Berkeley to develop a coordinated department-wide DEI outreach program that connects individual activities and addresses current gaps in the pipeline. Prior to the submission of the ME department-wide DEI proposal in 2020, outreach activities were conducted using a fragmented faculty member approach. Many faculty members participated in various K-12 and university-level outreach programs, including, but not limited to, Girls in Engineering, First Robotics, ME Rising Stars, or developed their own outreach program. With interest in the development of a synergistic and coordinated approach to advance DEI in ME, department leadership deployed a few strategies. The first approach was the establishment of a new position, ME Vice Chair of Equity and Inclusion. Under the leadership of the ME Vice Chair, the department deployed a second approach: leverage project management tools to assess the current state of outreach activities and identify a desired future state e.g., a gap analysis. Their analysis highlighted current activities and programs, gaps in the outreach activities in the pipeline from middle school through graduate school, and potential opportunities to connect and build a more cohesive department wide strategy. To better understand the impact of their previous outreach efforts, they analyzed admissions data. Using a data-driven approach, the faculty in the ME department, with diverse research expertise and interests, developed a coordinated department-wide DEI outreach program with an aim to connect individual activities and address current gaps in the pipeline.

This new initiative was designed to serve K-12 students and teach them and their teaching staff about diverse careers in mechanical engineering. Specifically, a gap was identified with respect to outreach programs in local (i.e., San Francisco Bay Area) and California-based high schools. With equity and access as core principles of this work, the ME department deployed a multi-prong approach: (1) development and execution of professional development opportunities for graduate students and high school teachers, (2) increase high-school student awareness and access to information about mechanical engineering careers and hands-on activities, and (3) enhance recruitment efforts throughout California to fulfill UC Berkeley’s commitment as a land grant institution to serve Californians. In response to online instruction due to COVID-19, ME faculty developed and mailed hands-on kits to replace in-person laboratories for the undergraduate curriculum. The approach transformed the college laboratory experience during online learning and was employed for K-12 outreach programs. To do this, graduate students were mentored through development of hands-on ‘kits’ to be used in high school science curriculum (e.g., physics or chemistry). To improve adoption of the kit in the classroom, a focus group including six high school science instructors was assembled. Instructors were identified from under resourced schools in cities neighboring Berkeley, including Richmond and Oakland, and, by leveraging relationships of our current undergraduate student body, a charter school in Southern California. All partner schools serve a higher percentage of Black and Latinx students, which is part of the student population the COE would like to recruit for its undergraduate and graduate programs.

Alleyne, F., & Vides, R., & O'Connell, G. D. (2022, February), Combining Forces: Putting Equity to Work Paper presented at 2022 CoNECD (Collaborative Network for Engineering & Computing Diversity) , New Orleans, Louisiana.

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