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Engineering Degree Trends for African American Women and Men

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2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

Moving the Needle: The Complexities of Race and Gender in Engineering Education

Tagged Division

Minorities in Engineering

Tagged Topic


Page Count


Page Numbers

26.618.1 - 26.618.18



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Paper Authors


Keith J. Bowman Illinois Institute of Technology

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Keith J. Bowman became Professor and Chair of the Department of Mechanical, Materials and Aerospace Engineering at Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) in August, 2011, immediately following nearly five years of experience leading the Purdue School of Materials Engineering as Interim Head and Head. His first faculty appointment was as an Assistant Professor at Purdue University in 1988 after receiving degrees from Case Western Reserve University (CWRU), (B.S. 1981, M.S. 1983) and the University of Michigan (Ph.D. 1987). He was promoted to Associate Professor in 1992, and then promoted to Professor in 1996. Keith Bowman served as a visiting professor and received Alexander von Humboldt stipends for research at the Technical University of Darmstadt, Germany in 1996 and again in 2002. He served as a visiting professor at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia in 2003. From 1996 to 2004 he served as graduate program chair of the Purdue School of Materials Engineering (MSE) during a substantial retooling of the program to more strongly emphasize doctoral degrees. In 2005-06 he served a one-year appointment as Interim Head of MSE and in 2007 was named Head of the Purdue School of Materials Engineering (MSE). He was named a Fellow of the American Ceramic Society in 2000, and has held several division and society positions, including becoming a member of the Board of Directors in 2012. In ASME, known as the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, he is a member of the executive committee of the mechanical engineering department heads and chairs (MEDHC). Awards at Purdue University include receiving the MSE Best Teaching Award in 1992 and 1995 and Purdue’s highest teaching award, the Charles Murphy Undergraduate Teaching Award in 1995. In 2003 Professor Bowman’s name was added to the Purdue Book of Great Teachers. In 2007 he received the Purdue College of Engineering Mentoring Award and he became a Professor of Engineering Education (by courtesy). In 2012 he was invested as the first Duchossois Leadership Professor in the IIT Armour College of Engineering.

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Engineering Degree Trends for African American Women and MenAcross the past decade there has been tremendous growth in Bachelor’s (BS), Master’s(MS) and Doctoral (PhD) attainment in US engineering schools. For many years it hadbeen evident that African American women were more likely than women from otherraces/ethnicities to earn engineering degrees. But, across the past nine years engineeringBS degree attainment by African American women has dropped by nearly 23%, whilealmost all other categories we typically collect have shown increases. At the same time,African American men have increased in their engineering BS degree attainment. Theintent of this paper is to use ASEE.s database to delve much deeper into this stunningchange within specific engineering disciplines and to also see whether the inevitableimpact of reduced BS degree is becoming evident at the MS and PhD level.Electrical Engineering, Computer Engineering and Electrical/Computer Engineering areall distinct categories in the ASEE database. When these disciplines are grouped, sincethey often represent specific engineering departments, it is well known that between 2005and 2013 there was a considerable drop in degree production. There were 18 percentfewer BS degrees in these disciplines in 2013 than in 2005. For African Americans thedrop was somewhat greater at about 23%, but there is a startling difference by gender.The decrease in the number of African American male BS degrees is about thirteenpercent whereas the decrease in African American female BS degrees was nearly fiftypercent. This resulted in a decrease in gender diversity among African American BSdegrees in electrical and computer engineering disciplines from twenty-six percent toseventeen percent. The contemporaneous change in overall gender diversity decreasedfrom about thirteen to twelve percent.  

Bowman, K. J. (2015, June), Engineering Degree Trends for African American Women and Men Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.23956

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