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Leveraging the NAM’s 'Getting Nurses on Boards Coalition' to Promote NAE’s 'Changing the Conversation' Campaign

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2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 23, 2018

Start Date

June 23, 2018

End Date

July 27, 2018

Conference Session

Engineering and Public Policy Division Technical Session 2

Tagged Division

Engineering and Public Policy

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Daniel B. Oerther Missouri University of Science & Technology Orcid 16x16

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Professor Daniel B. Oerther, PhD, PE, F.AAN, F.RSA, F.RSPH, F.CIEH, ANEF joined the faculty of the Missouri University of Science and Technology in 2010 after ten years on the faculty of the University of Cincinnati where he served as Head of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. Since 2014, he has served concurrently as a Senior Policy Advisor to the U.S. Secretary of State in the areas of environment, science, technology, and health (ESTH). Oerther earned his B.A. in biological sciences and his B.S. in environmental health engineering from Northwestern University (1995), and he earned his M.S. (1998) in environmental health engineering and his Ph.D. (2002) from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. He has completed postgraduate coursework in Microbial Ecology from the Marine Biology Laboratory, Environmental Health from the University of Cincinnati, Public Health from The Johns Hopkins University, and Public Administration from Indiana University, Bloomington. Oerther is a licensed Professional Engineer (PE, DC, MO, and OH). He is Board Certified in Environmental Engineering (BCEE) by the American Academy of Environmental Engineers and Scientist (AAEES), registered as a Chartered Engineer (CEng) by the U.K. Engineering Council, recognized as a Diplomate of the American Academy of Sanitarians (D.AAS), certified as an Environmental Health Specialist (CEHS) by the State of Ohio, registered as a Chartered Environmentalist (CEng) by the U.K. Society for the Environment, and recognized as a Certified Environmental Professional (CEP) by the Academy of Board Certified Environmental Professionals. Oerther's scholarship, teaching, service, and professional practice focus in the fields of environmental biotechnology and sustainable development where he specializes in promoting Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WaSH), food and nutrition security, energy efficiency, and poverty alleviation. Oerther's awards for teaching include the best paper award from the Environmental Engineering Division of ASEE, as well as recognition for excellence in teaching from the NSPE, the AAEES, and the Association of Environmental Engineering and Science Professors (AEESP). He participated in both the 2006 and the 2015 conferences of the National Academies Keck Futures Initiative (NAKFI) as well as the 2011 Frontiers of Engineering Education Symposium (FOEE) of the U.S. National Academies. Oerther is a four-time recipient of Fulbright, and he has been recognized with a Meritorious Honor Award by the U.S. Department of State. Due to his collaborations with nurses and healthcare professionals, Professor Oerther has been inducted as a Lifetime Honorary Member of Sigma Theta Tau, the International Honor Society of Nursing (STTI), and he has been inducted as a Lifetime Honorary Fellow of the American Academy of Nursing (F.AAN) and the Academy of Nursing Education Fellows (ANEF). Oerther has also been elevated as a Fellow of the Society of Environmental Engineers (SEE), the Royal Society of Arts (F.RSA), the Royal Society for Public Health (F.RSPH), and the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (F.CIEH).

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The joke goes something like this, “Question: how can you identify the extrovert engineer? Answer: s/he’s the one staring at your shoes!” Let’s face it, engineers have a problem with our visibility. When you ask the typical person on the street, “what do engineers do?” The single most common response is, “drive trains.” In 2002, the National Academy of Engineering published a report, Raising Public Awareness of Engineering, which documented that the engineering community has spent hundreds of millions of dollars annually in an effort to promote the public understanding of engineering. And all of this investment has yielded little fruit. In 2008, the NAE published a follow-up report, Changing the Conversation: Messages for Improving Public Understanding of Engineering, which summarized more than 18 months of effort by public relations experts and engineers to identify and test a small number of messages that show potential for improving the public understanding of engineering. Among the five recommendations presented in the report, the bottom line is that engineers need to “reposition” the public’s understanding of engineering and adopt language that emphasizes the positive impact of engineering in the world (i.e., “helps society”) rather than emphasizing the necessary skills (i.e., “math” and “build things”) and personal benefits (i.e., “high salary”) of a career in engineering. Although limited in scope of study, the preliminary messages that tested well included, “Engineers make a world of difference,” “Engineers are creative problem solvers,” “Engineers help shape the future,” and “Engineering is essential to our health, happiness, and safety.” In 2013, the NAE published their final report in this series, Messaging for Engineering: From Research to Action, which documented additional experience using the messages and outlined a series of “calls to action” to include “individual proponents who spread the (new) message in one-on-one and group interactions.” One “call to action” specifically encourages the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) to include a recurring session on “messaging” at the annual ASEE conference and at the yearly Engineering Deans Council Public Policy Colloquium. A search of ASEE PEER with the phrase, “changing the conversation,” shows a steady publication of approximately 25 articles per year, and while the majority appear in three divisions (Women in Engineering; Liberal Education/Engineering & Society; and Educational Research and Methods) it is encouraging to note that at least a couple of papers appear in many of ASEE’s divisions.

The purpose of this article is to highlight an opportunity that engineers may be able to use to leverage our desire to increase public understanding of our profession: namely, getting engineers on boards. In 2011, the now-named National Academy of Medicine (then-named the Institute of Medicine, IOM) published a report, The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health, which envisioned a bold future where nurses could bring, “a steadfast commitment to patient care, improved safety and quality, and better outcomes,” to serve as, “team members and leaders for a reformed and better-integrated, patient-centered health care system,” advanced by the Affordable Care Act (ACA). One of the four key messages of the report was, “nurses should be full partners, with physicians and other health professionals, in redesigning health care in the United States.” To support this charge, a coalition of nursing organizations representing the more than three million registered nurses (RNs) throughout the US created the “Nurses on Boards” campaign (see: Begun in 2014, the goal is simple, “10,000 nurses on boards by 2020 where board is defined as a decision-making body with strategic influence to improve the health of communities nationwide – including corporate, government, non-profit, advisory, or governance boards or commissions, panels, or task forces that have fiduciary or strategic responsibility.”

This article highlights the similarities among the objectives of nurses who formed the “Nurses on Boards” coalition and the objectives of engineers who formed the “Changing the Conversation” campaign. This article also summarizes demographic data from the US Department of Commerce comparing the nursing and engineering professions. And finally, this article outlines a zero-draft plan for getting “Engineers on Boards” as a way of achieving the objectives of “Changing the Conversation.” This article argues that positioning engineering leaders on boards creates individual proponents who spread the (new) message (of engineering) in one-on-one and group interactions where leader set a vision and role model attitudes and behaviors that impact large teams of followers.

Oerther, D. B. (2018, June), Leveraging the NAM’s 'Getting Nurses on Boards Coalition' to Promote NAE’s 'Changing the Conversation' Campaign Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--30771

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