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Engineering a New Reality: Using Virtual Reality to Cultivate Inclusive Mindsets Among Engineering Faculty

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2019 CoNECD - The Collaborative Network for Engineering and Computing Diversity


Crystal City, Virginia

Publication Date

April 14, 2019

Start Date

April 14, 2019

End Date

April 22, 2019

Conference Session

Track: Special Topic - Computing & Technology Technical Session 6

Tagged Topics

Diversity and Special Topic: Computing & Technology

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Paper Authors


Claudio Vignola Arizona State University, Polytechnic campus

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Claudio is a Bachelor and Master Engineering student at Arizona State University that enjoys human interaction, and it is currently interested in having an impact on culture and society.
He considers himself a practical aesthete since he has a significant appreciation for arts and beauty, but he also values the usefulness of things.
Claudio aims for his work to be meaningful and he is passionate about having an impact on other people lives. He is currently working at the S.P.A.C.E lab where he is researching empathy and inclusion in the engineering environment. Claudio is happy to talk to anyone and if you fit the category, please contact him and share your story.

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Nicholas Flowers Arizona State University

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Nicholas Flowers is a Technological Entrepreneurship and Management B.S. and Graphic Information Technology B.S. student at Arizona State University. He is a self-taught video game developer and is the cofounder of a startup video game company.

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Brooke Charae Coley Arizona State University, Polytechnic campus

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Brooke Coley, PhD is an Assistant Professor in Engineering at the Polytechnic School of the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at Arizona State University. Dr. Coley is Principal Investigator of the Shifting Perceptions, Attitudes and Cultures in Engineering (SPACE) Lab that aspires to elevate the experiences of marginalized populations, dismantle systematic injustices, and transform the way inclusion is cultivated in engineering through the implementation of novel technologies and methodologies in engineering education. Intrigued by the intersections of engineering education, mental health and social justice, Dr. Coley’s primary research interest focuses on virtual reality as a tool for developing empathetic and inclusive mindsets among engineering faculty. She is also interested in hidden populations in engineering education and innovation for more inclusive pedagogies.

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Keywords: Faculty, engineering, race/ethnicity, gender Success with broadening participation requires the establishment of inclusive engineering cultures where people from underrepresented groups are made to recognize the value of their uniqueness while experiencing belongingness as an essential part of the community. While some scholars have urged the need to facilitate more opportunities for intergroup dialogue and interaction to circumvent the reinforcement of stereotypes of people from URGs, others have recognized realizing inclusive cultures in engineering to be limited by individual mindsets. Unfortunately, our thinking and actions around achieving inclusion have focused more on addressing students, their backgrounds and their perceptions of the climate rather than addressing how the faculty, culture, enduring injustices, institutional policies and structural inequalities come together to form environments that are impervious to navigate, particularly for those from URGs. One potentially transformative way of doing this is by shifting the mindsets of faculty to be more inclusive. The role of the faculty in shaping culture, specifically in engineering, is critical and yet, understudied.

Through faculty, this project seeks to broaden participation in a novel way by seeking to understand how we might cultivate inclusive cultures in the absence of critical masses of people traditionally underrepresented in engineering. Specifically, this work exposes faculty participants to an immersive virtual reality (IVR) experience using a head-mounted HTC Vive platform. The power of IVR is its ability to enable a person to walk in someone else’s shoes to experience their perspective in a seemingly real way without judgement being cast and people feeling exposed. In the simulation, participants embody avatars as they navigate scenarios representative of common marginalized experiences of those most impacted by non-inclusive engineering environments. Preliminary findings from this work suggest experiencing firsthand marginalized experiences that ‘inclusion privilege’, power and implicit bias commonly circumvent can serve as a means of increasing awareness.

Vignola, C., & Flowers, N., & Coley, B. C. (2019, April), Engineering a New Reality: Using Virtual Reality to Cultivate Inclusive Mindsets Among Engineering Faculty Paper presented at 2019 CoNECD - The Collaborative Network for Engineering and Computing Diversity , Crystal City, Virginia. 10.18260/1-2--31758

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