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Integrating Inclusive Pedagogy and Experiential Learning to Support Student Empowerment, Activism, and Institutional Change: A Case Study with Transgender STEM Students

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2019 CoNECD - The Collaborative Network for Engineering and Computing Diversity


Crystal City, Virginia

Publication Date

April 14, 2019

Start Date

April 14, 2019

End Date

April 22, 2019

Conference Session

Track: Special Topic - Social Justice & Reform Technical Session 5

Tagged Topics

Diversity and Special Topic: Social Justice & Reform

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Paper Authors


Kristin Boudreau Worcester Polytechnic Institute

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Kristin Boudreau is Paris Fletcher Distinguished Professor of Humanities at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, where she also serves as Head of the Department of Humanities and Arts. Her training is in nineteenth-century literature, but for the past 8 years she has taught engineering ethics, first-year engineering courses, and humanities for engineers. She has also worked with students and colleagues to develop role-playing games teaching engineering within its complex humanistic context.

NOTE: this paper has co-authors.

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Leo Ryan Bunyea Worcester Polytechnic Institute


David DiBiasio Worcester Polytechnic Institute

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David DiBiasio is Associate Professor of Chemical Engineering and Department Head of ChE at WPI. He received his ChE degrees from Purdue University, worked for the DuPont Co, and has been at WPI since 1980. His current interests are in educational research: the process of student learning, international engineering education, and educational assessment. Collaboration with two colleagues resulted in being awarded the 2001 William Corcoran Award from Chemical Engineering Education. He served as 2004 chair of the ASEE ChE Division, has served as an ABET program evaluator and on the AIChE/ABET Education & Accreditation Committee. He has also served as Assessment Coordinator in WPI’s Interdisciplinary and Global Studies Division and as Director of WPI’s Washington DC Project Center. He was secretary/treasurer of the new Education Division of AIChE. In 2009 he was awarded the rank of Fellow in the ASEE, and in 2013 was awarded the rank of Fellow in AIChE.

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Rozwell Johnson

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Zoe Reidinger

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keywords: Undergraduate, LGBTQIA+, Engineering,

STEM students from underrepresented populations often report waning interest in STEM careers because STEM academic content fails to engage their identities or their passions. Can engineering educators foster a more inclusive and supportive learning environment that helps students from these populations develop their engineering skills by assigning them design projects that allow them to engage both their interests and their identities simultaneously? Senior-year design projects can and often do allow for engagement of interests, but risk alienating these groups by not encouraging them to focus on topics that affect their specific communities directly, and, as senior year projects, can be too late in coming to these students who already feel alienated from the process as a whole.

Using two case studies, this paper offers possible solutions to this challenge, focusing specifically on LGBTQ+ engineering students. We report on the experiences and outcomes of a junior-year interdisciplinary undergraduate student project required of all STEM majors that demonstrate how maximum autonomy in framing a research problem can contribute to student motivation while also prompting dramatic institutional change. We report on two students, each from a different student research team at a mid-sized STEM institution with the majority of students being engineering majors. In this case, the students framed their own problem ¬—lack of inclusion and support for transgender and nonbinary students at their institution—developed their own research design, and proposed solutions that have since been adopted by the institution.

Our data include multiple interviews with two students on separate project teams and multiple interviews with their faculty project advisor. We provide evidence that the students themselves changed as a result of their research, becoming more confident in their abilities and more knowledgeable about the career possibilities open to them that would involve their entire selves: embodied, intellectual, and moral.

Boudreau, K., & Bunyea, L. R., & DiBiasio, D., & Johnson, R., & Reidinger, Z. (2019, April), Integrating Inclusive Pedagogy and Experiential Learning to Support Student Empowerment, Activism, and Institutional Change: A Case Study with Transgender STEM Students Paper presented at 2019 CoNECD - The Collaborative Network for Engineering and Computing Diversity , Crystal City, Virginia. 10.18260/1-2--31772

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