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Quantifying the Pool of Underrepresented Minority Students for Engineering Studies

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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: Collegiate - Technical Session 13

Tagged Topics

Diversity and Collegiate

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Paper Authors


Beth A. Myers University of Colorado, Boulder

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Beth A. Myers is the Director of Analytics, Assessment and Accreditation at the University of Colorado Boulder. She holds a BA in biochemistry, ME in engineering management and PhD in civil engineering. Her interests are in quantitative and qualitative research and data analysis as related to equity in education.

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Angela R. Bielefeldt University of Colorado, Boulder

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Angela Bielefeldt is a professor at the University of Colorado Boulder (CU) in the Department of Civil, Environmental, and Architectural Engineering (CEAE). She has served as the Associate Chair for Undergraduate Education in the CEAE Department, as well as the ABET assessment coordinator. She was also the faculty director of the Sustainable By Design Residential Academic Program at CU, a living-learning community where interdisciplinary students learn about and practice sustainability. Bielefeldt is currently the chair of ASEE's Community Engagement Division and a member of the AAAS Committee on Scientific Freedom and Responsibility.She is also a licensed P.E. Professor Bielefeldt's research interests in engineering education include service-learning, sustainable engineering, social responsibility, ethics, and diversity.

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Jacquelyn F. Sullivan University of Colorado Boulder

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Jacquelyn Sullivan is founding co-director of the Engineering Plus degree program in the University of Colorado Boulder’s College of Engineering and Applied Science. She spearheaded design and launch of the Engineering GoldShirt Program to provide a unique access pathway to engineering for high potential, next tier students not admitted through the standard admissions process; this program is now being adapted at several engineering colleges. Sullivan led the founding of the Precollege division of ASEE in 2004; was awarded NAE’s 2008 Gordon Prize for Innovation in Engineering and Technology Education, and was conferred as an ASEE Fellow in 2011. She has served on multiple NAE committees, and on the NSF ENG division's Advisory Committee.

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Keywords: Undergraduate, Race/Ethnicity, Gender, Engineering

Abstract: A widely held belief exists among engineering educators and policy-makers that if pre-college student interest in engineering were broadly increased, the population of students pursuing a collegiate engineering education would be more diverse. However, after years of working in engineering admissions, a more probable hypothesis emerged that the pool of engineering-eligible students that come from communities of color is smaller than might be expected. To reach parity in representation with national, college-bound, high school graduates, engineering colleges would need to markedly change admission practices regarding the use of standardized test scores. This investigation uses data from the American Society for Engineering Education College Profiles on typical entry metrics for incoming first-year students at participating engineering colleges compared with standardized test score results broken out by race/ethnicity. The pool of students who are eligible for engineering admission are compared to how many would be needed to reach national racial/ethnic parity. The level of student interest in engineering is also considered. Fostering student interest in engineering to the extent that it leads more, and more diverse, students pursuing engineering as their chosen undergraduate major is key to increasing the number of underrepresented students who enroll in engineering colleges. The larger, and perhaps more problematic issue for the engineering profession is that far too few students meet the stringent academic standards expected by engineering colleges to be able to achieve regional and national race and ethnic parity in engineering education. Meeting parity with regard to race and ethnicity would require a drastic change in admission policy and practice through reduced reliance on standardized test scores.

Myers, B. A., & Bielefeldt, A. R., & Sullivan, J. F. (2019, April), Quantifying the Pool of Underrepresented Minority Students for Engineering Studies Paper presented at 2019 CoNECD - The Collaborative Network for Engineering and Computing Diversity , Crystal City, Virginia. 10.18260/1-2--31783

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