July 26, 2021
July 26, 2021
July 19, 2022
Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE) has a direct impact on communities and on individual lives. Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) must be an integral part of that work. CEE educational programs need to prepare students not only with the knowledge to tackle technical challenges, but also with the historical and cultural perspectives and critical thinking skills to bolster and center social justice in CEE endeavors. This includes not just the communities affected by our work but also the web of institutional relationships that influence our engineering options and decisions.
In this paper, we describe the broad-spectrum efforts of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Carnegie Mellon University to interweave DEI principles and practice in our pedagogy and culture. We discuss specific curriculum development and redesign efforts, both at the undergraduate and graduate levels, which empower our students to reason critically about inclusive and equitable engineering. These efforts focus on identifying and combating inequities associated with race, gender, sexual orientation, disability, socioeconomic status, and intersections thereof. We also detail the creation of, and activities spearheaded by, our departmental DEI committee.
The Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering has begun to address issues of DEI within courses, research, outreach, and department culture. The Department established a DEI Committee, composed of faculty, staff, and students. This committee has the responsibility of examining and correcting institutional biases and to improve understanding and experience for all within the Department through, for example, active dialogue within the Department, seminars, and actions.
We have also incorporated this work into our classrooms. These efforts have sought to both inform our students and empower them to make a difference, especially in communities that have been negatively impacted by a history of racially-biased infrastructure and environmental decisions. In the fall of 2020, instructors began to deliberately confront issues of DEI in multiple courses in different ways, including class discussions, team projects, problem sets, and writing assignments. These efforts include discussions of how civil engineering projects are linked to inequitable pollution concentrations, lack of access, mass incarceration, and displacement of low income communities. We have used readings to investigate the social cost of not considering social justice in investment decisions and have engaged in design and build projects to contribute to the revitalization of historically-underserved communities. We have also developed exercises to identify prominent non-white or non-male-identifying engineers who have played important roles in engineering science and practice. Through this work our goal is to equip students with the ability to think critically about how they can make change within their own institutional systems and in their future careers.
Finally, distilling our collective experiences, we offer a list of recommendations and best practices, which we hope will nucleate future DEI discussions and initiatives throughout the CEE community.
Armanios, D. E., & Christian, S. J., & Francioni Rooney, A., & McElwee, M. L., & Moore, J. D., & Nock, D., & Samaras, C., & Wang, G. J. (2021, July), Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Civil and Environmental Engineering Education: Social Justice in a Changing Climate Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference. https://peer.asee.org/36988
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