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Full Paper: Continuum unto Transformation: Distinctions used in diversity work

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Proceedings of the 2020 ASEE PSW Section Conference, canceled


Davis, California

Publication Date

April 30, 2020

Start Date

April 30, 2020

End Date

October 10, 2020

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Lizabeth L Thompson P.E. California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo

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Lizabeth is currently a visiting professor in engineering education at Cal State LA. She is also a professor at Cal Poly, SLO in Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering. She has been teaching for 26 years and has a track record of using innovative pedagogy such as project based, flipped classroom and competency grading to support students success. Currently her research is in the area of social justice in Engineering Education.

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Perhaps it is just me, but I have been on a journey when it comes to diversity work. Of course as an engineer, I started at quite a deficit. But as an engineering educator grounded in both research and practice, I began dabbling in equity work 30 years ago. It wasn’t until I began collaborating with colleagues in Ethnic Studies, Women and Gender Studies, and those at Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSI) that I realize I am not exact in my use of language. I say things like “diversity, inclusion, equity, and social justice” as if they all meant the same thing. It wasn’t until I read the works of Rodriguez (cite) and Ridgeway (cite) that I saw not only did the words have different meanings, but using them interchangeability reveled my ignorance. Before I move on, I must reveal that I identify as a tall white women from much generational privilege. I am also a queer women in engineer. I am currently attempting to create ecosystems that recognize the value of each human, and working to decenter white privilege in all that I do. I reveal these things so that my point of view is clear and it is only one of many points of view (this is decentering whiteness). It is my belief that the language we use is a window into our mental models. This is also true in diversity work. Given all of this, I have developed a continuum that guides our journey as we work for equity (or unconditional love). At each iteration of this continuum, I have gathered input from many of my colleagues. I also look forward to speaking to people at ASEE PSW about this work. The whole of the continuum is moving from “fear of other” to “unconditional love.” In its current form there are seven steps: Separate but Equal, Assimilation, Diversity, Inclusion, Equity, Social Justice, and Reparations. This paper will describe the theory and development process of as background for describing the continuum. I also include descriptions of the steps with commentary on who benefits from a specific orientation. In addition, I will describe some common interventions in each orientation. There are many questions I have about this and would very much appreciate input and discussion: Is this continuum helpful for conversations or interventions? Are the categories described in a way that creates a defense (is that bad)? Are these categories, steps, or orientations (I have used all of these labels to describe these)? Do I have the necessary disciplinary background to develop this (who should help me)? How does this relate to engineering and engineering education? This paper is a work in progress and I plan to have open discussion in the presentation sessions.

Thompson, L. L. (2020, April), Full Paper: Continuum unto Transformation: Distinctions used in diversity work Paper presented at Proceedings of the 2020 ASEE PSW Section Conference, canceled, Davis, California.

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