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Improving Campus Climate For Faculty From Underrepresented Groups

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2008 Annual Conference & Exposition


Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Publication Date

June 22, 2008

Start Date

June 22, 2008

End Date

June 25, 2008



Conference Session

The Academic Environment

Tagged Division

Women in Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

13.713.1 - 13.713.12



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Paper Authors


Lisa McClain Boise State University

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Lisa McClain is the Director of the Gender Studies Program at Boise State University and Associate Professor of History. Her research is interdisciplinary, involving women's studies, social sciences and history. Lisa has taken a leadership role in Boise State University's efforts to improve gender equity not only at the university by throughout Idaho.

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Cheryl Schrader Boise State University

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Cheryl B. Schrader is Dean of the College of Engineering and Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Boise State University. Dean Schrader has an extensive record of publications and sponsored reseearch in the systems, control and engineering education fields. She received the 2005 Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Engineering and Mathematics Mentoring from the White House for an enduring, strong and personal commitment to underrepresented engineering students and faculty.

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Janet Callahan Boise State University Orcid 16x16

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Janet Callahan is the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs at Boise State University and a Professor in the Materials Science and Engieering Department. Janet received her Ph.D. in Materials Science, her M.S. in Metallurgy and her B.S. in Chemical Engineering from the University of Connecticut. Her educational research interests include freshman engineering programs, math success, and recruitment and retention issues in engineering.

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

Improving Campus Climate for Faculty from Underrepresented Groups


A continuing challenge in engineering in higher education is that of professional equity regarding opportunity for advancement and job satisfaction due to differences in gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, ability and other factors. Because there are more women and persons of color visible within engineering faculties and administrations than ever before, casual observers might conclude that significant progress has been made in creating an equitable climate in academia. A preponderance of recent studies, however, demonstrate that while women and individuals from other underrepresented groups have gained access to some faculty and administrative positions, this has not necessarily translated into consistent patterns of success through all levels of academic hierarchies and leadership positions. For example, some universities do a good job of recruiting and hiring women faculty and faculty of color, yet beyond this, both groups are consistently underrepresented at certain levels of faculty administration, such as department chair, dean, and endowed chairs.1-7

In 2005, Boise State University, a mid-sized, metropolitan university, administered a Campus Climate Survey to gain an understanding of how these national trends presented themselves on a particular campus, with the long-term goal of transforming campus climate and culture to enhance opportunities for underrepresented groups. In general, between two-thirds and three- quarters of the faculty who responded to the survey reported that they have been treated fairly and equitably while at the university. The following analysis sheds light on the approximately one-quarter to one-third of faculty members who did not feel that they had been equitably treated while also focusing on responses from the science and engineering faculty in particular. Additionally, this paper explores ways in which engineering and science departments and universities can use climate data to inform strategic plans of action.

Campus Climate Survey

Equity in academia involves a variety of factors: in addition to hiring and promotion rates, equity includes more subtle issues such as access to leadership opportunities and key committee assignments, allocation of resources, the public valuation of research agendas, recognition and awards, policies and procedures that take into account the needs of the majority as well as underrepresented groups, and, perhaps most importantly, university, college and departmental culture that promotes perceptions of fair and equal treatment.8 The current institutional culture at most colleges and universities values a traditional type of leadership that often does not recognize the distinctive talents and achievements of women, ethnic and racial minorities, those with disabilities and those of a variety of sexual orientations. Faculty drawn from these underrepresented groups are often advised how to “work the system” already in place.9 Such faculty struggle to reconcile their gender identities, family priorities, cultural norms, and personal values with a conflicting university culture and institutional imperatives that make little real accommodation for diverse needs. In many cases, job dissatisfaction results, leading to low retention rates for faculty from underrepresented groups.10-13 Ironically, these are often the faculty members that universities are working hardest to recruit and retain.

McClain, L., & Schrader, C., & Callahan, J. (2008, June), Improving Campus Climate For Faculty From Underrepresented Groups Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 10.18260/1-2--4185

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: © 2008 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