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Dimensions of Diversity in Engineering: What We Can Learn from STS

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Conference

2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition

Location

Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 23, 2018

Start Date

June 23, 2018

End Date

July 27, 2018

Conference Session

Diversity and Inclusion: Concepts, Mental Models, and Interventions

Tagged Division

Liberal Education/Engineering & Society

Tagged Topic

Diversity

Page Count

16

Permanent URL

https://peer.asee.org/30336

Download Count

48

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Paper Authors

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Toluwalogo Odumosu University of Virginia

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Toluwalogo “Tolu” Odumosu is Assistant Professor of Science, Technology and Society and Assistant Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering in the School of Engineering and Applied Science at the University of Virginia. He also holds a Research Associate position at Harvard University.

He received his PhD in Science and Technology Studies from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, holds a M Eng. in Electrical Engineering from Cornell University and a BSc in Electrical Engineering from the University of Lagos in Nigeria. His research focuses on studying the various processes by which societies select, adopt and implement large technological systems with an emphasis on digital telecommunication technologies, particularly mobile telephony systems and the Internet. He has previously carried out ethnographic work on mobile communications in Nigeria, and has undertaken a comparative study of the development and emergence of the telecommunications industries of the European Union and the United States.

At the University of Virginia, Tolu heads the Digital Privacy Research Laboratory.

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Sean Ferguson University of Virginia

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Sean Ferguson is a Lecturer in the Department of Engineering and Society at UVA since 2014. He specializes in sustainable technology and policy making from a background in Science and Technology Studies from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, working on energy and environmental policy in New York State, and a former life in cellular biology.

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Rider W. Foley University of Virginia

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Dr. Rider W. Foley is an assistant professor in the science, technology & society program in the Department of Engineering and Society at the University of Virginia. He is the principal investigator at University of Virginia on the ‘4C Project’ on Cultivating Cultures of Ethical STEM education with colleagues from Notre Dame, Xavier University and St. Mary’s College. He is also the co-leader of the ‘Nano and the City’ thematic research cluster for the Center for Nanotechnology in Society at Arizona State University. Rider is a Research Collaborator with the Sustainability Science Education program at the Biodesign Institute. His research focuses on wicked problems that arise at the intersection of society and technology. Rider holds a Ph.D. in Sustainability from Arizona State University, and a Master's degree in Environmental Management from Harvard University and a Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Science from University of New Hampshire. Before earning his doctorate, he has worked for a decade in consulting and emergency response for Triumvirate Environmental Inc.

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Kathryn A. Neeley University of Virginia

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Kathryn Neeley is Associate Professor of Science, Technology, and Society in the Engineering & Society Department of the School of Engineering and Applied Science. She is a past chair of the Liberal Education/Engineering & Society Division of ASEE and is particularly interested in the role of liberal education in developing engineering leaders.

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Caitlin Donahue Wylie University of Virginia Orcid 16x16 orcid.org/0000-0002-0214-7837

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Caitlin D. Wylie is an assistant professor of Science, Technology and Society in the University of Virginia's School of Engineering and Applied Science.

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Sharon Tsai-hsuan Ku University of Virginia

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Rosalyn W. Berne University of Virginia

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Rosalyn W. Berne, PhD serves as Director for the Center of Engineering Ethics and Society (CEES), for the National Academy of Engineering. On leave from the University of Virginia's School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, she holds the rank of Associate Professor of Science, Technology and Society (STS) within the Department of Engineering and Society. She holds advanced degrees in Communication Studies, and Religious Studies (with a focus on bioethics). Rosalyn explores the intersecting realms of emerging technologies, science, fiction and myth, and the links between the human and non-human worlds. Her academic research and writing span considerations of ethics in biotechnology and nanotechnology, with two academic books, numerous conference papers and journal articles published under her name. She has also written in the genre of science fiction, and published books in the body-mind-spirit genre about her encounters with horses. She has taught courses in Nanotechnology Ethics and Policy; Gender Issues and Ethics in the New Reproductive Technologies; Religion and Technology; STS & Engineering Practice; The Engineer, Ethics, and Professional Responsibility; STS and the Frankenstein Myth, and is developing a new course on "Social and Ethical Implications of the Engineering Grand Challenges." Rosalyn regularly incorporates mindfulness practices into her engineering school courses.

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Abstract

The challenge of increasing diversity in engineering is usually framed as a problem of representation with solutions and interventions aimed at increasing the numbers of underrepresented groups. For example, the NSF funds programmatic interventions that attempt to increase demographic representation to an “equitable” level. A skeptical assessment of interventions of this sort is that they are really about enriching the experiences of already privileged participants in the nation’s engineering schools by exposing them to alternative perspectives. On the face of it, this is an important and laudable development. Exposures to alternative perspectives for the engineer are valuable in and of themselves. However, if interventions that address the diversity problem are limited to increasing the numbers of underrepresented groups without simultaneously creating the intellectual and institutional spaces that allow for the expression of multiple viewpoints and perspectives, we run the risk of limiting, and possibly closing down the very thing we are trying to encourage. This paper presents a range of approaches and frameworks, rooted in the field of science, technology & society (STS), that explore and sustain diverse intellectual and institutional spaces that allow engineering students to individually and collectively explore and experience multiple dimensions of diversity in engineering pedagogy and practice.

We argue that creating these dimensions of diversity is an essential aspect of building truly diverse environments that encourage all students to find opportunities to question the status quo and express themselves. Drawing upon insights from institutional experiments and classroom experiences from several faculty in an interdisciplinary engineering program, we reflexively take up the project of redefining complex socio-technical systems (or wicked problems) by reframing them from multiple viewpoints. It is the position of the authors that pursuing diversity in all its dimensions requires boundary crossing that confronts the traditional organization of departments built upon disciplinary egocentrism while challenging reductionist approaches to problem definitions and technical fixes. The paper addresses examples such as the coupling and reordering of the physical arrangements of furniture in classrooms and office environments, and the practices of contemplation that can support (or suppress) inclusivity. We explore efforts to re-constitute a course through deliberative democratic processes that offer students a voice in understanding their own experiences as learners and co-constructors of the learning environment. Such efforts also extend to exploring alternative ways of knowledge making and their relation to engineering practice and pedagogy. These approaches offer a physical and philosophical reorientation toward self-reflection, recognition of otherness, and engagement with a plurality of perspectives for dealing with and thriving in diverse environments.

A central theme in our paper is the question of who generates and orders knowledge. For example, we explore laboratory observations and interviews that identify undergraduates as key, but often invisible, contributors to knowledge-generating processes within engineering schools. Our goal is to open a conversation on how diversity extends beyond the numbers of students and faculty with various racial, ethnic, gender, and cultural identities to the institutional, sociocultural, and material realities that shape our experiences.

Odumosu, T., & Ferguson, S., & Foley, R. W., & Neeley, K. A., & Wylie, C. D., & Ku, S. T., & Berne, R. W. (2018, June), Dimensions of Diversity in Engineering: What We Can Learn from STS Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. https://peer.asee.org/30336

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