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Creating and Sustaining Inclusive Learning Communities in Engineering

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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 13 - Paper 5: Creating and Sustaining Inclusive Learning Communities in Engineering

Tagged Topics

Diversity and CoNECD Paper Sessions

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Paper Authors


Melissa M. Bilec University of Pittsburgh

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Dr. Melissa Bilec is the William Kepler Whiteford Professor in Civil and Environmental Engineering and Co-director of the Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation. Her research focuses on the sustainable built environment. She is committed to exploring how the built environment can be an integral part of climate change solutions. She views the world and her research using a systems-level approach, and she is an expert in life cycle assessment. Using this view, she integrates critical built environment modeling approaches from building energy modeling to indoor air quality to develop robust strategies to mitigate climate change and deleterious environmental and human health impacts. Most recently, she is working to solve the global waste challenge through the advancement and development of circular economy principles, since the built environment is a major consumer of resources and producer of waste.

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Jessica Moriah Vaden University of Pittsburgh


April Dukes University of Pittsburgh Orcid 16x16

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April Dukes ( is the Faculty and Future Faculty Program Director for the Engineering Educational Research Center (EERC) and the Institutional Co-leader for Pitt-CIRTL (Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching, and Learning) at the University of Pittsburgh. April studied at Winthrop University, earning a BS degree in Chemistry and BA degree in Psychology in 2000. She then completed her PhD in 2007 at the University of Pittsburgh, studying oxidative stress in in vitro models of Parkinson's disease. During her prior graduate and postdoctoral work in neurodegeneration, April mentored several undergraduate, graduate, and clinical researchers and developed new methods for imaging and tracking mitochondria from living zebrafish neurons.

In her work for the EERC and Pitt-CIRTL, April Dukes collaborates on educational research projects and facilitates professional development (PD) on instructional and mentoring best practices for current and future STEM faculty. As an adjunct instructor in the Department of Neuroscience at the University of Pittsburgh since 2009 and an instructor for CIRTL Network and Pitt-CIRTL local programming since 2016, April is experienced in both synchronous and asynchronous online and in-person teaching environments.

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Amy Hermundstad Nave Colorado School of Mines Orcid 16x16

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Amy Hermundstad Nave is a Faculty Developer in the Trefny Innovative Instruction Center at the Colorado School of Mines. She earned a BS in Mechanical Engineering from Colorado State University before going on to earn her PhD in Engineering Education and MEng in Mechanical Engineering from Virginia Tech. Her research has focused on conceptual understanding in core engineering courses, opportunities to support engineering students’ professional development, and efforts to support underrepresented students in engineering. Her current work in faculty development focuses on supporting faculty members in incorporating research-based practices into their own classrooms.

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Creating and Sustaining Inclusive Learning Communities in Engineering Jessica Vaden, Kristen Parrish, Amy E. Landis, April Dukes, Melissa M. Bilec

As we face serious challenges in higher education from declining enrollment to public trust, creating an inclusive classroom can offer hope in our faltering times. Research supports that more inclusive classrooms improve students' learning and academic performance. Since higher education is experiencing declining enrollment, and persistence and completion rates are linked to enrollment, it behooves higher education to retain as many students as possible by creating environments and climates that foster belonging and inclusivity. While the research on the benefits of inclusive classrooms is evident, our own experiences as STEM educators across three universities suggest that while faculty may desire to create more inclusive classrooms, they may struggle with how to operationalize them, due in part to a lack of tangible guidance. Our work seeks to address gaps by providing actionable practices for engineering faculty seeking to create more inclusive classrooms. As a part of this work, we are developing practices that are peer-tested, peer-recommended, and expert evaluated and focusing on high-impact inclusive classroom practices that align with the arc of the course. This talk, however, will focus on the creation, development, assessment, and key aspects of our inclusive learning communities (ILC), which we believe are critical to inclusive classroom success as they can foster support and provide guidance related to actionable practices.

Bilec, M. M., & Vaden, J. M., & Dukes, A., & Hermundstad Nave, A. (2022, February), Creating and Sustaining Inclusive Learning Communities in Engineering Paper presented at 2022 CoNECD (Collaborative Network for Engineering & Computing Diversity) , New Orleans, Louisiana.

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