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Motivating and Engaging Faculty in Cultural and Curricular Transformation of a Multidisciplinary Engineering School

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2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Columbus, Ohio

Publication Date

June 24, 2017

Start Date

June 24, 2017

End Date

June 28, 2017

Conference Session

Engaging Faculty Across Disciplines, Colleges, and Institutions

Tagged Division

Multidisciplinary Engineering

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Paper Authors


James D. Sweeney Oregon State University

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James D. Sweeney is Professor and Head of the School of Chemical, Biological and Environmental Engineering at Oregon State University. He received his Ph.D. and M.S. degrees in Biomedical Engineering from Case Western Reserve University in 1988 and 1983, respectively, and his Sc.B. Engineering degree (Biomedical Engineering) from Brown University in 1979. He is a Fellow of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering and a Senior Member of IEEE and AIChE.

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Michelle Kay Bothwell Oregon State University Orcid 16x16


Milo Koretsky Oregon State University

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Milo Koretsky is a Professor of Chemical Engineering at Oregon State University. He received his B.S. and M.S. degrees from UC San Diego and his Ph.D. from UC Berkeley, all in Chemical Engineering. He currently has research activity in areas related engineering education and is interested in integrating technology into effective educational practices and in promoting the use of higher-level cognitive skills in engineering problem solving. His research interests particularly focus on what prevents students from being able to integrate and extend the knowledge developed in specific courses in the core curriculum to the more complex, authentic problems and projects they face as professionals. Dr. Koretsky is one of the founding members of the Center for Lifelong STEM Education Research at OSU.

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Susan Bobbitt Nolen University of Washington Orcid 16x16

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Professor of Learning Sciences & Human Development

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Devlin Montfort Oregon State University

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Dr. Montfort is an Assistant Professor in the School of Chemical, Biological and Environmental Engineering at Oregon State University

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In an NSF-funded IUSE:RED project we are working to transform the culture and curriculum in a multidisciplinary School of Engineering that combines programs in chemical engineering, bioengineering, and environmental engineering. Our work emphasizes instilling a culture of inclusion for all involved (faculty, staff, students) as well as reform of the ‘middle years’ of an undergraduate core curriculum (serving all three majors) so that the student learning experience shifts away from sequestered activities in ‘School World’ and towards more inclusive, realistic and consequential ‘Engineering World’ activities. Cultural change requires recognition that fundamental values, norms, and identities can vary widely for faculty and students, including across our three engineering disciplines. In order to ensure success and sustainability of our initiatives, we recognize that changes to long-standing unit policies and procedures are required. Faculty/staff members who engage in School transformation in formal ways need to be assured that their efforts will be recognized and valued through the approbations and reward structure, including promotion and tenure. Our university bases review upon employees’ Position Descriptions (PD’s). These individualized job descriptions are important in the faculty promotion and tenure process, as they represent a formal agreement between the faculty/staff member and supervisor (school head or department chair) that can be updated and refined at any time. Other universities sometimes use annual faculty professional development plans, or action plans, for similar goal setting. We are leveraging individualization of PD’s as a tool to engage faculty and staff in reform activities, letting individuals see and agree upon specific aspects of School-wide work that they are interested in taking on as their own. In the summer of 2016 we ran workshops for faculty/staff with an emphasis on engaging together in brainstorming on the following two broad questions:

“What do you already do/work on that could be included in your position description that would more clearly illustrate contributions to diversity/inclusion/equity/student success/community?”

“What would you like to work on in the future toward the same contributions?”

A purpose of this exercise was to create a faculty/staff driven slate of activities to then be brought back to our full faculty/staff for inspiration and consensus agreement. The workshops were framed within the ‘big picture’ of synergistic priorities and efforts at our university (e.g. our President’s priority on advancing equity, inclusion, student success, and social justice; our College’s strategic plan which has a primary goal of becoming a recognized model as an inclusive and collaborative community; recent Faculty Senate P&T policy changes that challenge all faculty to contribute in the advancement of equity, inclusion, and diversity via teaching, advising, research, extension and/or service; and the work of other NSF-funded groups on campus including an ADVANCE team). In the current fall term of 2016 all faculty/staff now have the opportunity to customize their position descriptions in agreement with the School Head so as to clearly recognize and value work related to School transformation. We are also exploring the concept of empowering select faculty/staff to propose projects as “Change Leaders” in leading the overall School’s culture and community shift.. Faculty/staff as a whole are working to identify and agree upon possible incentives and rewards for taking on change projects (e.g. course/time releases, stipends, budgets for their change project work, etc.). The approaches described in this paper are intended to place responsibility for academic unit culture transformation on each community member as opposed to relying on a dedicated few, and should be of interest to others engaged in similar transformative projects in multidisciplinary engineering schools and departments.

Sweeney, J. D., & Bothwell, M. K., & Koretsky, M., & Nolen, S. B., & Montfort, D. (2017, June), Motivating and Engaging Faculty in Cultural and Curricular Transformation of a Multidisciplinary Engineering School Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2--28688

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