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People-First Engineering: A College-wide effort to shift the culture by using the socially engaged design process

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2022 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Minneapolis, MN

Publication Date

August 23, 2022

Start Date

June 26, 2022

End Date

June 29, 2022

Conference Session

Faculty Development Division Technical Session 5

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Paper Authors


Heidi Sherick University of Michigan

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Dr. Heidi Sherick has worked in higher education for over 30 years with experience working in a variety of administrative roles including academic affairs, student affairs, and alumni affairs. Currently, Heidi is the Director of Leadership Development in the College of Engineering at the University of Michigan. She provides one-on-one coaching for faculty and staff in new executive leadership roles and Associate level faculty in Engineering; facilitating career advancement, fostering connections, and providing leadership development opportunities.
Heidi served as the Assistant Dean for Undergraduate Programs and Diversity in the College of Engineering at Montana State University from 2001-2012 and was the Director of EMPower, the engineering minority program.
Heidi earned her PhD in Educational Leadership from University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She studies developmental relationships in higher education and investigated the processes through which higher education leadership is fostered including mentoring, coaching, role-modeling, sponsoring, and networking.

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Pauline Khan University of Michigan


Tershia Pinder-Grover University of Michigan

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Dr. Tershia Pinder-Grover earned a B.S. degree in Fire Protection Engineering from the University of Maryland and M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Michigan. She joined the Center for Research on Learning and Teaching (CRLT) at the University of Michigan in August 2005 and became the director of CRLT-Engin in 2016. In this role, she leads a team focused on advancing engineering education in the College of Engineering (CoE) through innovative programming, strategic partnerships, and cultivating individual relationships. In collaboration with the Associate Deans in the CoE, she provides leadership on educational priorities, especially as it relates to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. She also works closely with department chairs to create customized programming to meet the needs of their faculty. Her current research interests focus on the adoption of inclusive teaching practices for engineering instructors.

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Deborah Covington University of Michigan

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This lessons learned paper highlights the process of engaging faculty and staff in a college-wide initiative to integrate anti-racism and equity training. The motivation for this initiative was to strengthen cultural competence and build an inclusive community for all members within the College of Engineering. We hoped to do this by working together to become allies for one another, understanding our individual and unique life experiences and backstories, and establishing practices to create an even more respectful, energized, and dynamic academic environment. To better understand how to pursue ways for all of us to continue to progress together, several subcommittees collected information about developing and implementing a program that would be substantive, impactful, and offer a variety of options for learning. Emphasis was on the creation of a space for everyone to provide options to share, speak, and listen with humility, and to build knowledge and understanding together in a profound way. Some unique aspects of the process included the use of the “socially engaged design process” [1] as a foundational framework for designing the initiative as well as the intentional practice of inclusion as we aimed to implement diversity, equity, and inclusion. Valuing diversity of thought, experience, and backgrounds was central to the process. The acts of practicing and modeling were critical components, especially in an educational setting. Thoughtful intention was put into the effort from language used by the Dean in the charge to the committees, to the composition of committee membership, to community engagement, and through communication with stakeholders. This lessons learned paper will emphasize the important factors needed to map an effort of anti-racism education programming to the socially engaged design process, which includes the stages of explore, define, ideate, develop, and realize. The data collected during the process will not be included in the scope of the paper; instead, the paper will highlight the practices faculty developers implemented in order to share lessons learned and the integration of the design process for organizational change around diversity, equity, and inclusion during the “Year of Impact on Racial Equity.” The explore phase, which included asking questions and gathering information was exhibited in the DEI Community Team process through constituent surveys (faculty and staff), small group discussions (including one on one discussions with faculty and the creative conversation mechanism for staff), and mini-retreats/town halls for both faculty and staff separately. The define phase included collecting information and adding context as the data converged. Looking for patterns, recognizing constraints, and determining a way forward were all keys to this phase that were emulated by the DEI Community Teams. The ideate phase allowed for the deeper understanding of what was learned from the constituent input. The committee members used the themes generated from the main learnings and created proposed possibilities for program implementation. In the develop phase, the steering committee and the faculty curriculum committee combined efforts to refine the ideas based on the feedback and on data, informing the future iterations. The realize phase was on-going and as an organization we launched an Equity Centered Engineering campaign where we focused on people-first. The efforts of each of the DEI Community Teams were integral to the framework of the vision of the Equity Centered Engineering college. This paper will focus on key ways to engage faculty and staff along the process, question assumptions, broaden participation through smaller engagement opportunities, and integrate programs with existing faculty development structures. The preferred presentation format is a lightning talk.

References: [1], ‘Center for Socially Engaged Design Socially Engaged Design Process Model’, 2020. [Online]. Available at:, [Accessed: 27 – Sept – 2021]

Sherick, H., & Khan, P., & Pinder-Grover, T., & Covington, D. (2022, August), People-First Engineering: A College-wide effort to shift the culture by using the socially engaged design process Paper presented at 2022 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Minneapolis, MN. 10.18260/1-2--41290

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