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Engineering (verb) Diversity: Using the Engineering Design Process to Define and Intervene in the Issue of Undergraduate Diversity at the Institution Level

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2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Columbus, Ohio

Publication Date

June 24, 2017

Start Date

June 24, 2017

End Date

June 28, 2017

Conference Session

Minorities in Engineering Division Technical Session 3

Tagged Division

Minorities in Engineering

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Paper Authors


Jenni Buckley University of Delaware

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Dr. Buckley is an Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering at University of Delaware. She received her Bachelor’s of Engineering (2001) in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Delaware, and her MS (2004) and PhD (2006) in Mechanical Engineering from the University of California, Berkeley, where she worked on computational and experimental methods in spinal biomechanics. Since 2006, her research efforts have focused on the development and mechanical evaluation of medical and rehabilitation devices, particularly orthopaedic, neurosurgical, and pediatric devices. She teaches courses in design, biomechanics, and mechanics at University of Delaware and is heavily involved in K12 engineering education efforts at the local, state, and national levels.

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Amy Trauth University of Delaware Orcid 16x16

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Amy Trauth, Ph.D., is the Senior Associate Director of Science Education at the University of Delaware's Center for Educational Leadership, Teaching, and Learning. In her role, Amy works collaboratively with K-12 science and engineering teachers to develop and implement standards-based curricula and assessments. She also provides mentoring and coaching and co-teaching support to K-12 teachers across the entire trajectory of the profession. Her research focuses on teacher education, classroom assessment, and P-16 environmental and engineering education.

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Michael L. Vaughan University of Delaware

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Michael L. Vaughan is Associate Dean and faculty member at the University of Delaware, College of Engineering. In this role, he is responsible for the College of Engineering academic affairs enterprise. Dean Vaughan manages the College of Engineering academic and educational support processes by developing and implementing policies, programs and interconnections to enhance the College ability to foster successful outcomes. Dean Vaughan is a member of the College leadership team. The College current has over 2442 undergraduate and over 850 graduate students.

For many years, he has served as the Campus Principal Investigator of the NSF funded Greater Philadelphia Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation (LSAMP) Program and the NSF/AMP Bridges to the Doctorate Program, which focus on the success of students traditionally underrepresented in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines. In addition, Dean Vaughan is the former Program Director/PI of the EAA/UD Graduate Preparatory Summer Residential Program funded by the Educational Advancement Alliance (EAA). The program includes up to 40 participants, rising juniors or seniors at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), who have interest in pursuing STEM disciplines at the graduate-level. Annually, Dean Vaughan supervises direction of the 4-week FAME/UD Summer Residential Program for 30-35 high school students, the RISE Summer Enrichment Program for incoming engineering freshmen and, in the past, the HEARD (Higher Education Awareness Response in Delaware) Project, a college awareness program, funded by the Department of Education through Philadelphia GEAR UP for College Network. Globally in the College, he manages academic programs and policies that impact the careers of all engineering students at both the undergraduate and graduate level. Dean Vaughan is focused on enhancing the College’s student/faculty interface by fostering successful academic and professional outcomes in an increasingly multi-cultural and diverse engineering environment.

On campus, Dean Vaughan is past-chair of the University-wide Risk Management Advisory Committee (RMAC), past-chair of the Campus Transfer Student Working Group, a member of the University Community Engagement Commission, the DuPont Scholars Selection Committee, the Assistant and Associate Dean Council and the University Career Services Center Advisory Committee.

Off campus, he is or has been a member of various professional associations and currently sits on numerous boards and committees that focus on engineering education and issues that positively impact the lives of young people. Dean Vaughan served on the National Executive Committee of the GEM Consortium in Alexandria VA which funds graduate degrees in Engineering and Science. Dean Vaughan is a former President and former Treasurer of the Board of the GEM Corporation and past Chairman of the National GEM Investment Committee. Dean Vaughan was former Vice President of the board of directors and Operations Committee Chair of the National Junior Engineering Technical Society (JETS) based in Alexandria, Va. The JETS organization was a leading nonprofit educational enterprise dedicated to promoting engineering and technology careers to America's youth. Of the more than 40,000 students JETS served each year, 53 percent were from groups traditionally underrepresented in engineering and technology and 36 percent of participants were female. Dean Vaughan is a longstanding member of the President’s Advisory Committee of the Girl Scouts of the Chesapeake Bay Council which encompasses girl scouting activities in all of the Delmarva Peninsula which includes Delaware, the Eastern Shore of Maryland, and the Eastern Shore of Virginia. In addition, he is a former Board President of Delaware Futures of Wilmington, DE an organization which provides educational, social, and motivational support to high school students with unrealized potential to become successful college applicants. Dean Vaughan is also the convener and member of the External Advisory Board of HBCU-UP SMILE Project at Delaware State University which reports to the institution’s president.

Dean Vaughan joined the University of Delaware in 1992 after prior experience as Assistant to the Dean of Engineering/Adjunct Assistant Professor of Electrical Engineering at North Carolina A&T State University and Senior-level Electronics Engineer at the Naval Underseas Warfare Center in Newport, RI where he also served as the Coordinator of the TIMES2, Inc. program at Rogers High School in Newport. He received both his BS and MS in Electrical Engineering from North Carolina A&T State University in 1982 and 1984, respectively. During his graduate work he was a Micro-Electronics Center of North Carolina (MCNC) Fellow. He is currently completing work for a Ph.D. in Civil & Environmental Engineering at the University of Delaware. He is a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. and President of the Board of Trustees of Bethel AME Church of Wilmington, DE. He is married to Cheryl M. Vaughan, a Private Banking Vice President, and they have been blessed with two children Sterling Michael, Accounting/MIS graduate at UD, and Carter Lynsay, a 14 year old aspiring young women engineer.

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Kenneth A. Bright University of Delaware, College of Engineering


Rachel Davidson University of Delaware Orcid 16x16

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Professor, Dept. of Civil and Environmental Engineering
Associate Dean for Diversity, College of Engineering
Core Faculty Member, Disaster Research Center
University of Delaware Newark, DE

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The under-representation of women and racial minorities in the undergraduate engineering population is a persistent and complex issue. Taking a wide lens, this lack of diversity can be attributed to a variety of causes, including but not limited to cultural bias, lack of exposure or access, few role models, and general lack of interest in the discipline due to yet another range of factors like decontextualized instruction in core STEM courses and a perceived lack of societal impact relative to other disciplines. The numerous “leaks” in the pipeline, along with the shear variety of established causes, lead many institutions, including our own, to take a scattershot approach to diversity in the undergraduate engineering population. Through a patchwork of federal, state, and internal support, post-secondary engineering programs simultaneously offer intra and extra-curricular K12 programming, college admissions scholarships, “gold shirt” programs, and wrap-around mentoring and academic support. While many of these programs have proven to be effective in recruiting and/or retaining under-represented students into engineering, they are often implemented with little consideration to the scale or efficiency needed to achieve institution-level goals for undergraduate diversity, which assumes that such goals have even been clearly articulated in the first place.

In this paper, we propose and demonstrate that the Engineering Design Process (EDP) provides an effective framework for goal-setting and developing targeted interventions to substantively advance undergraduate diversity at the institutional level. We utilized a 4-phase EDP, which involved: (1) Defining the problem; (2) Developing multiple unique and viable concepts; (3) Implementing one or more of these concepts as a final design solution(s); and (4) Continuously evaluating and refining the design(s). We used our own institution as a case study (a mid-sized, research-focused, land grant university on the US East Coast), and we limited the scope of the diversity issue to female and under-represented racial groups (URGs; def. non-white and non-Asian).

We began in Phase 1 of EDP by defining the issue of diversity at our institution relative to other engineering programs nationally. We considered 5 years of historical data (2011-2015) for all undergraduate engineering majors at our institution. This included annual enrollment and graduation numbers, as well as year-by-year retention for a single enrollment cohort, broken down by gender (female) and race (URGs). These data for recruitment and retention were compared, by engineering major, to 2015 national trends available through a comprehensive, publically-accessible database (ASEE Engineering Data Management System) as well as a published report on best practices in student retention (ASEE Going the Distance, 2012). Based on these data, we established a clear goal of each engineering major at our institution meeting or exceeding the gender and racial diversity percentages for graduation cohorts at the 75th percentile nationally.

This well-defined goal is allowing us, in our currently underway Phases 2-4 of the EDP, to develop and advance discipline-specific interventions centered around recruitment and/or retention of females and URGs. Although this work is very much still ongoing, we have achieved some level of success in these preliminary stages, with one department already reaching the 75th percentile nationally for gender diversity. Across all disciplines, administrative and faculty buy-in is being achieved by providing specific information and goals for enrollment and retention, while considering certain constraints such as overall class size and the limited depth of the applicant pool in certain disciplines. Given how daunting diversity issues can sometimes appear, we have found that framing and addressing this issue like engineers – that is, using the engineering design process – has made the process of goal setting, intervention, and evaluation remarkably clear; and it may be a model for other institutions to follow as they understand and address this complex issue.

Buckley, J., & Trauth, A., & Vaughan, M. L., & Bright, K. A., & Davidson, R. (2017, June), Engineering (verb) Diversity: Using the Engineering Design Process to Define and Intervene in the Issue of Undergraduate Diversity at the Institution Level Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2--28247

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: © 2017 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