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Teaching Environmental Justice Principles to Chemical Engineering Seniors: An Antiracist, Collaborative Approach

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Conference

2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access

Location

Virtual Conference

Publication Date

July 26, 2021

Start Date

July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

Conference Session

Working Against Unjust Social Forces

Tagged Divisions

Equity and Culture & Social Justice in Education

Tagged Topic

Diversity

Page Count

18

Permanent URL

https://peer.asee.org/37809

Download Count

264

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Paper Authors

biography

Anna Marie LaChance University of Connecticut Orcid 16x16 orcid.org/0000-0001-9744-7383

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Anna Marie (she/her) is a Ph.D. student in the Department of Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering at the University of Connecticut. Her work is related to thin-film fluid mechanics and nanosheet co-assembly for use in high-barrier polymer nanocomposites. Having completed the Graduate Certificate in College Instruction (GCCI) at UConn, she is preparing to teach at the university level upon graduation in late Spring 2021. Through her research laboratory, she has mentored more than a dozen undergraduate students who are under-represented minorities in STEM. Additionally, she has been involved with her school's Rainbow Center as well as anti-racist activism in both her department and outside of academia. Her goal is to bring social justice principles into STEM education and model what a queer, feminist, anti-racist engineer would be.

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Jennifer Pascal University of Connecticut

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Jennifer Pascal is an Assistant Professor in Residence at the University of Connecticut. She earned her PhD from Tennessee Technological University in 2011 and was then an NIH Academic Science Education and Research Training (ASERT) Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of New Mexico. Her research interests include the integration of fine arts and engineering and developing effective methods to teach transport phenomena.

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Danielle Gan University of Connecticut

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Danielle Gan (she/her) is a senior undergraduate in the Department of Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering at the University of Connecticut with a minor in Global Environmental Change. She is currently assisting Dr. Kristina Wagstrom with research on the design and testing of an unmanned aerial vehicle that can monitor particulate matter. Danielle is a member of Citizens Climate Lobby, a grassroots environmental group that aims to influence climate policy. She is also a member of the Society of Women Engineers (SWE), as well as the Filipino American Student Association (FASA). After graduating, she hopes to combine her technical skills with her passion for the environment in the chemical engineering industry.

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Justyn James Paquette Welsh University of Connecticut

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Justyn Welsh (he/him) is a senior undergraduate in the Department of Chemical & Biomolecular
Engineering at the University of Connecticut with a minor in Entrepreneurship & Technology
Innovation. His on-campus research consists of designing a Portable Air Pollution Monitor under
Dr. Kristina Wagstrom, however, his involvement expands beyond just the School of
Engineering. He is a recipient of the UConn IDEA Grant for a startup titled “breathe.” to
promote and execute stress relief through a weighted, scented blanket. He also served as a
METAS (Mentoring, Educating, and Transforming to Achieve Success) mentor for incoming
and transfer LatinX students, is a flute player in the UConn Concert Band, the Treasurer of the
University’s Engineering World Health Chapter, and a KUBE (Kids and UConn Bridging
Education) Leader in which he designs and executes lesson plans for middle schoolers interested
in STEM. Justyn hopes to get involved with the groundbreaking research in genetics,
pharmaceuticals, or the aerospace industry as he prepares to graduate from UConn and begin to
work on his Master’s degree.

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Thomas James Pauly University of Connecticut

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Thomas Pauly is a senior undergraduate studying Chemical Engineering in the department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at the University of Connecticut with a minor in Environmental
Engineering. He is both a highly motivated college student and an academically excelling
learner. Thomas currently assists Dr. McCutcheon as an undergraduate teaching assistant for the
course "CHEG 3128: Chemical Engineering Junior Laboratory" in the UConn School of
Engineering. He is also an active undergraduate research assistant studying the economic impact of ground-level ozone concentrations on soybean crop yields in Dr. Kristina Wagstrom’s Computational Atmospheric Chemistry and Exposure (CACE) laboratory. For the past two summers, Thomas has worked two internships: the first as an engineering intern at Allnex in 2019, and the second as an Environment, Health and Safety Intern at Pfizer in 2020. Working at
Pfizer especially developed Thomas’s work ethic and passion for chemical engineering,
influencing him to seek further related chemical engineering positions after graduation where he can apply the
knowledge he has learned in school to the pharmaceutical or manufacturing industries. Thomas is now seeking a
full-time position with an engineering firm starting summer 2021 where he can use his extensive analytical skills and proficiency with process modelling software and laboratory techniques to help solve problems that can change peoples’ lives.

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Patrick Paul University of Connecticut

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Patrick Paul (he/him) is a senior undergraduate in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at the University of Connecticut. His previous research experience includes multifunctional nanostructured materials for various applications, where he assisted in the experimentation of applying various nanocoatings to plastic films. Patrick also has served in multiple leadership positions for the UConn Chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE).

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Abstract

The aim of this project is to engage students with course material related to environmental justice principles using anti-racist pedagogy. In a senior-level Unit Operations and Process Simulation course for chemical engineers, students are asked to take a holistic approach to chemical plant design. However, previous iterations of this course did not ask students to consider the implications of building them: Who is making the decision to build these plants, and why are they doing so? Where are these chemical plants being built? Are they safe for the workers and the surrounding neighborhoods? Who gets to design these plants, and who will be maintaining these plants? If there's a difference between those groups, why?

To this end, we incorporated a one-week course module on environmental justice as it pertains to chemical engineering. In an effort to emulate anti-racist, feminist modes of instruction, we called upon a few of the students to form a “cogen” (co-generative dialogue) to assist us in developing and delivering the course materials for this week of class. Over the course of the semester, four students self-selected to be a part of this cogen, meeting with the instructor once per week to co-develop learning objectives, instructional strategies, forms of assessment, and course materials for this module. In doing so, we centered the narratives of the students who have been directly impacted by climate injustice and environmental racism, as well as students who have been involved in climate activism in their non-academic lives, in the delivery of the course materials. Collaboratively, the 4-student, 1-instructor cogen team co-developed course content relating to the role of chemical engineers in advancing environmental injustice and its local, national, and global impacts on public health, economic security, racist violence, mental health, and more.

By starting an in-class dialogue about the responsibilities of the members of our discipline, we hope to engage students in broader issues such as diversity, equity, and inclusion of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) individuals within STEM fields as well as the disparities in access to housing, healthcare, and education among marginalized communities across this country.

LaChance, A. M., & Pascal, J., & Gan, D., & Welsh, J. J. P., & Pauly, T. J., & Paul, P. (2021, July), Teaching Environmental Justice Principles to Chemical Engineering Seniors: An Antiracist, Collaborative Approach Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference. https://peer.asee.org/37809

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