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Real life experiences in recruiting, retaining, and supporting LGBTQIA+ engineering students

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2024 Collaborative Network for Engineering & Computing Diversity (CoNECD)


Arlington, Virginia

Publication Date

February 25, 2024

Start Date

February 25, 2024

End Date

February 27, 2024

Conference Session

Track 6: Technical Session 8: Title: Real life experiences in recruiting, retaining, and supporting LGBTQIA+ engineering students

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Diversity and CoNECD Paper Sessions

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Amy Rachel Betz Kansas State University

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Dr. Amy Betz is the Assistant Dean for Retention, Diversity, and Inclusion for the College of Engineering at Kansas State University. She is also an associate professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering. She received her Ph.D. from Columbia Uni

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Craig Wanklyn P.E. Kansas State University

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Craig Wanklyn is an assistant dean for the Carl R. Ice College of Engineering at Kansas State University. Prior to K-State, he was an associate at M-E Engineers in Denver, Colorado, and was on the board of governors for the Rocky Mountain chapter of ASHRAE. He holds a bachelor’s and master’s degree in architectural engineering and an MBA. He is a licensed professional engineer and a LEED-accredited professional in building design and construction.

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Rachel Levitt Kansas State University

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According to Gallup, 20% of Generation Z Americans identify as LGBT and almost 2% of Generation Z identify as transgender (Jones, 2023). Research shows that students that identify as LGBTQIA+ experience greater marginalization by their peers (Cech and Rothwell, 2018) and are less likely to be retained in STEM fields (Hughes, 2018). If we want to continue to recruit and retain a robust engineering workforce, we need to understand the issues impact the accessibility and success for LGBTQIA+ students and adopt new practices to support these students. Additionally, there is the current national landscape that is adversely impacting these students. According to the ACLU, there have already been 491 anti-LGBTQ bills introduced in 46 states in the U.S during the 2023 legislative session In this interactive session, we will discuss several activities and steps for recruiting LGBTQIA+ students such as GSA (Gay-Straight Alliance or Gender-Sexuality Alliances) group recruitment visits, recruitment stops on campus tours highlighting support for LGBTQIA+ students, and presenting at LGBTQ leadership conference events. We will ask audience members to share what they are doing at their respective institutions as well as provide some context or history for these activities. Recruitment is a key area to not only make students begin to feel a sense of belonging in engineering but also to serve as an early point of introduction for our students to understand the importance of diversity in the workforce. Recruitment is also a great way to introduce cultural change in engineering. Prospective students may tour 5-9 colleges (Platt, 2022). Even if they do not attend a college, they will take away broader messages about the field of engineering and inclusivity. Furthermore, since LGBTQIA+ status may be a hidden or undisclosed identity, welcoming messages and support need to be provided for every student. In conjunction with recruitment, it is also important to have ongoing activities that support the retention, graduation, and professional development of LGBTQIA+ students. The presenters will provide some additional context for the national and state’s conversations, such as how changing legislation may impact how or if you disclose information to colleagues or coworkers. The final outcome of this session will be a list of current practices to support the recruitment, retention, and professional development of LGBTQIA+ students. These practices will be listed with context of the role, position or buy-in recommended for an institution to implement the practice. The goal is to help create a repository of information to support faculty and staff that are working to improve the culture for LGTBQIA+ students at their institution. It is hoped that the list will span a wide enough range that it is accessible and relevant regardless of your institutional position or where your institution is currently at in providing a welcoming environment for students.

References: Cech, Erin A. and William R. Rothwell, “LGBTQ Inequality in Engineering Education,” Journal of Engineering Education, 2018 Hughes, Bryce E., “Coming out in STEM: Factors affecting retention of sexual minority STEM students,” Science Advances, 2018 Jones, Jeffery M., “LGBT Identification U.S. LGBT Identification Steady at 7.2% Gallup, February 22, 2023 Platt, Adam, “Why Campus Tours Keep College Presidents Up at Night,” Twin Cities Business, accessed May 30th, 2023. ACLU, “Mapping Attacks on LGBTQ Rights in U.S. State Legislatures”, accessed May 30th

Betz, A. R., & Wanklyn, C., & Levitt, R. (2024, February), Real life experiences in recruiting, retaining, and supporting LGBTQIA+ engineering students Paper presented at 2024 Collaborative Network for Engineering & Computing Diversity (CoNECD), Arlington, Virginia. 10.18260/1-2--45471

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