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Gender Participation In Humanitarian Vs. Traditional Multidisciplinary Senior Design Projects

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2005 Annual Conference


Portland, Oregon

Publication Date

June 12, 2005

Start Date

June 12, 2005

End Date

June 15, 2005



Conference Session

Improving Multidisciplinary Engineering Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

10.660.1 - 10.660.9



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Paper Authors

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Joan Gosink

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Catherine Skokan

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Gender Participation in Humanitarian vs. Traditional Multidisciplinary Senior Design Projects Catherine Skokan, Joan Gosink

Division of Engineering, Colorado School of Mines


In 2003, the Colorado School of Mines received a grant from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation to establish a minor in Humanitarian Engineering. One of the goals of the Hewlett Foundation’s Engineering Schools of the West Initiative was to increase the number and diversity of engineering students in the United States. We have investigated the gender mix of students in traditional multidisciplinary senior design projects for the Engineering Division at the Colorado School of Mines versus the gender mix of students choosing humanitarian-designated multidisciplinary projects. A humanitarian-based senior design project is a requirement for the Humanitarian Engineering Minor. Humanitarian projects included a broad range of topics such as a water quality project in an economically disadvantaged area of rural Colorado and construction of an onion storage facility in Senegal. Four semesters of senior design classes were investigated with about 500 students participating. Women comprised about 23% of the total class population for these senior design course offerings. In the Humanitarian projects, women comprised over 50%. This significant difference supports the concept that women will be drawn more to engineering as a career if the application of engineering to humanitarian problems is emphasized.

CSM and a History of Women on Campus

Colorado School of Mines, founded in 1874, is a public research university devoted to engineering and applied science with a student body of 3500. It has the highest admissions standards of any university in Colorado and among the highest of any public university in the U.S. CSM has distinguished itself by developing a curriculum and research program that is geared towards responsible stewardship of the earth and its resources. In addition to strong education and research programs in traditional fields of science and engineering, CSM is one of a very few institutions in the world having broad expertise in resource exploration, extraction, production and utilization. As such, CSM occupies a unique position among the world's institutions of higher education1.

Women have participated in much of the history of CSM2. The first woman to graduate, Florence Caldwell, received a degree in Civil Engineering in 1898. By 1959, three more women had graduated. In the 1960’s, the number of women at CSM increased and an additional 10

“Proceedings of the 2005 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright@2005, American Society for Engineering Education”

Gosink, J., & Skokan, C. (2005, June), Gender Participation In Humanitarian Vs. Traditional Multidisciplinary Senior Design Projects Paper presented at 2005 Annual Conference, Portland, Oregon. 10.18260/1-2--15503

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