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Unpacking Latent Diversity

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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

Action on Diversity - Institutional Change & Perspectives on Diversity

Tagged Topics

Diversity and ASEE Diversity Committee

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Paper Authors


Allison Godwin Purdue University, West Lafayette (College of Engineering) Orcid 16x16

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Allison Godwin, Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor of Engineering Education at Purdue University. Her research focuses what factors influence diverse students to choose engineering and stay in engineering through their careers and how different experiences within the practice and culture of engineering foster or hinder belongingness and identity development. Dr. Godwin graduated from Clemson University with a B.S. in Chemical Engineering and Ph.D. in Engineering and Science Education. She is the recipient of a 2014 American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) Educational Research and Methods Division Apprentice Faculty Grant. She has also been recognized for the synergy of research and teaching as an invited participant of the 2016 National Academy of Engineering Frontiers of Engineering Education Symposium and 2016 New Faculty Fellow for the Frontiers in Engineering Education Annual Conference. She also was an NSF Graduate Research Fellow for her work on female empowerment in engineering which won the National Association for Research in Science Teaching 2015 Outstanding Doctoral Research Award.

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This theory paper explores how diversity apart from social identities like race and gender is framed in the engineering education literature and how these concepts promote a different but compatible approach to understanding diversity—latent diversity. Latent diversity is a new approach to diversity work that captures underlying affective and cognitive differences that provide potential sources for innovation but are not visible. This approach does not examine other non-visible social identities like sexual orientation, first-generation status, socioeconomic status, etc. Prior literature suggests that diversity in approaches, problem solving, and ways of thinking improve innovation in engineering design more reliably than does diversity along the lines of age, race, gender, etc. However, the process of enculturating students into engineering through engineering curriculum often creates homogeneity in students’ approaches to problems, ways of thinking, and attitudes. In this paper, I explore a limited set of existing research on diversity from these underlying perspectives including identities, alternative ways of thinking and being, motivation, cognitive diversity, and innovation and creativity. This work synthesizes the findings of these studies to paint a rich picture of how students develop different attitudes and skills to navigate their paths within engineering. Additionally, this work provides an evidence-based argument for the importance of recognizing and understanding latent diversity to promote a more inclusive environment in engineering and recruit, educate, retain, and graduate more innovative and diverse engineers. This paper opens the conversation about a new, but complementary, focus for developing a STEM workforce rich in talent and capable of adapting to the changing STEM landscape.

Godwin, A. (2017, June), Unpacking Latent Diversity Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2--29062

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