Asee peer logo

Diversity In Environmental Engineering: The Good And Bad

Download Paper |


2006 Annual Conference & Exposition


Chicago, Illinois

Publication Date

June 18, 2006

Start Date

June 18, 2006

End Date

June 21, 2006



Conference Session

Environmental Engineering Curricula

Tagged Division

Environmental Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

11.491.1 - 11.491.13



Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors

author page

Kristen Tull Lafayette College

author page

Lee Clapp Texas A&M University-Kingsville

author page

Donna Fennell Rutgers University

author page

Tim La para Minnesota

author page

Alok Bhandari Kansas State University

author page

Sharon Jones Lafayette College

Download Paper |

NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Diversity in Environmental Engineering: The Good and Bad


Engineering diversity remains a problem in the USA despite ongoing efforts by government, academia, and the private sector. A committee of the Association of Environmental Engineering and Science Professors (AEESP) is characterizing diversity within the environmental engineering field to determine if there are unique issues associated with this profession that need to be addressed. For this effort, diversity includes gender and ethnic diversity in terms of African Americans, Hispanic Americans, and Native Americans. The committee looked at populations of environmental engineering students (based on degrees granted), faculty, and practitioners using available data from the Engineering Workforce Commission, American Society of Engineering Education, U.S. Department of Labor, and the National Science Foundation. As expected, the study shows that contrary to engineering as a whole, the environmental engineering student population is very diverse in terms of gender. There is some gender diversity in terms of environmental engineering faculty, though numbers of female faculty are still below those for the general population. Also, there is a lower percentage of female environmental engineering faculty than the percentage of females graduating with doctorate degrees in that field. However, women are well represented among environmental engineering practitioners with a growing population trend related to the amount of degrees granted. Unfortunately, environmental engineering is not diverse in terms of ethnicity for students, faculty, and practitioners. At the aggregate level, ethnic diversity for environmental engineering is similar to engineering as a whole and well below the general population. Based on the aggregate results, the committee evaluated programs at ABET-accredited undergraduate environmental engineering programs and noted the subset of those colleges that are reportedly implementing best practices to enhance diversity and/or have a particular advantage in terms of attracting diverse students due to location, etc. This evaluation shows that those colleges that are somewhat successful at increasing ethnic diversity in engineering at the undergraduate level have similar success with environmental engineering programs. However, the remaining schools were less successful with achieving ethnic diversity in environmental engineering than within the overall engineering program. The results for ethnic diversity are limited because the populations are small. Additional study is also needed to determine the reasons why ethnically diverse students may choose engineering disciplines other than environmental engineering at a higher rate.


The Association of Environmental Engineering and Science Professors (AEESP) made an initial effort to count environmental engineers in 20041. That study sought to determine if demographic information for environmental engineers, including students, faculty, and practitioners exists, if it is accurately collected, and if it is effectively reported. The evaluation showed that environmental engineering demographic data is available, but with two main limitations. The first limitation is that the most comprehensive sources for environmental engineering demographics data for students (American Society of Engineering Education (ASEE) and the Engineering Workforce Commission (EWC)) and faculty (ASEE) depend solely on named degree programs and named departments. 1 In other words, a student graduating in civil engineering, but working in environmental engineering is not counted. Similarly, a faculty

Tull, K., & Clapp, L., & Fennell, D., & La para, T., & Bhandari, A., & Jones, S. (2006, June), Diversity In Environmental Engineering: The Good And Bad Paper presented at 2006 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, Illinois. 10.18260/1-2--372

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2006 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015