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Engineering Ambassador Network: Increasing Diversity through Outreach to Middle and High Schools

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2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Atlanta, Georgia

Publication Date

June 23, 2013

Start Date

June 23, 2013

End Date

June 26, 2013



Conference Session

Liberal Education/Engineering & Society (LEES) Poster Session

Tagged Division

Liberal Education/Engineering & Society

Page Count


Page Numbers

23.497.1 - 23.497.13



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Paper Authors

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Ashlea Noelle Krupa Pennsylvania State University

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Melissa Marshall Pennsylvania State University, University Park


Michael Alley Pennsylvania State University, University Park

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Michael Alley is an associate professor of engineering communication at Pennsylvania State University. He serves on the advisory board of the Engineering Ambassador Network. With Melissa Marshall and Christine Haas, he teaches advanced presentation skills to Engineering Ambassadors in workshops across the country.

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Joanna K. Garner Old Dominion University


Christine Haas Worcester Polytechnic Institute

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Christine Haas has worked for non-profits and higher education institutions for the past eight years. As the director of operations for Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) Engineering, she managed operations and strategic initiatives for the newly formed Office of the Dean of Engineering. As director of Marketing for Drexel College of Engineering, she oversaw an extensive communication portfolio and branding for seven departments and programs. Haas currently consults with engineering and science related institutions to advise on best practices in communication, from presentations to print. Christine received her M.B.A. in Marketing and International Business from Drexel University and her B.A. in English and Film from Dickinson College.

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Johanna Gretchen Hatzell Pennsylvania State University, University Park

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Engineering Ambassador Network: Increasing Diversity through Outreach to Middle and High Schools Only 18.4 percent of engineering bachelor’s degrees were awarded to women in2011.1 Moreover, only 4 percent of engineering bachelor’s degrees in 2009 went to African-Americans, and only 8.5 percent went to Hispanics. The lack of diversity in engineering fields isa cause for serious concern. Most colleges and universities are striving to bring more of theseunder-represented groups into their respective engineering programs. However, thesepercentages still do not reflect the national demographics, nor are the trends in enrollment onewould expect for the efforts made by the university, government, and industry. Why is there sucha lack of interest in engineering? One answer is that misconceptions regarding engineering andwhat engineers do steer high school students from pursuing an engineering profession incollege.2 According to the study done by the National Academy of Engineering, the majority ofstudents in grades K-12 were unable to identify what engineers do. Common answers includedbuilding buildings and fixing cars. In addition, some students associated the term engineer onlywith someone who drives a train. To address this problem, the Engineering Ambassador Network has been visiting middleand high schools classrooms and communicating messages from Changing the Conversation.Changing the Conversation is a report published by the National Academy of Engineers focusedon messages for improving public understanding of engineering. The emphasis by theEngineering Ambassadors on communicating the messages of Changing the Conversation can beseen in the mission statement of the Penn State Engineering Ambassadors: “Throughcommunication and leadership, we strive to become world class engineers and seek to motivatethe next generation of engineers to impact the health, happiness, and safety of our world”.3 Thephrase to impact the health, happiness, and safety of our world comes directly from one of therecommended marketing messages in Changing the Conversation.2 The Engineering Ambassadors go through rigorous training to master advancedpresentation skills so they can give engaging presentations to communicate key messages ofChanging the Conversation. Two key messages from Changing the Conversation for recruitingfemales into engineering are (1) Engineers make a difference in the world; and (2) Engineerscontribute to the health, happiness, and safety of society. This paper presents an assessment of how effective the Engineering Ambassadors are intheir outreach mission to increase diversity by communicating these messages to middle andhigh schools. In this paper, we focus on the efforts of the four member schools: Penn State,Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, University of Connecticut, and Worcester Polytechnic Institute.Statistics were collected on the numbers of middle and high school classrooms and studentsvisited by Engineering Ambassadors from the four member programs and the seventeen pilotprograms of the Engineering Ambassador Network. The following measures were used tocharacterize the success of these outreach visits: the percentage of schools that have requestedsecond and third visits (or that requested to visit the Engineering Ambassador institution);volunteered comments by high school teachers and students; and cases in which visited studentsenrolled in engineering at the respective Engineering Ambassador institution.References 1. Yoder, Brian. L. Engineering by the Numbers. In Profiles of Engineering and Engineering Technology Colleges, American Society for Engineering Education, 2011, pp1. profile-engineering-statistics.pdf. Accessed September 18, 2012. 2. National Academy of Engineering, Changing the Conversation: Messages for Improving Public Understanding of Engineering (Washington, D.C.: NAE Press, 2008). 3. Engineering Ambassadors. Available at Accessed September 13, 2012.

Krupa, A. N., & Marshall, M., & Alley, M., & Garner, J. K., & Haas, C., & Hatzell, J. G. (2013, June), Engineering Ambassador Network: Increasing Diversity through Outreach to Middle and High Schools Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--19511

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