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January 24, 2021
January 24, 2021
January 28, 2021
Diversity and CoNECD Paper Submissions
This paper describes how data-driven examination of barriers to successful completion of undergraduate engineering degrees amongst female-identifying and underrepresented minority (URM) students at XYZ University has shaped the development of new policies and programs within the college. This study is a continuation of a project which began with analysis of graduation data to identify factors associated with a student’s successfully completing a degree within engineering. The was followed by a survey to better understand the experiences of students from underrepresented or marginalized groups. In this paper, we first present the results of focus groups conducted with students from a variety of backgrounds and experiences such as transfer students, female-identifying students, URM women, URM men, international students, and students who have either switched out of an engineering program or have a GPA that puts them at risk to not complete an engineering degree. In analyzing the results of the survey and the focus groups, we identified two primary trends that inform our new programs. First, students from underrepresented and marginalized groups are more likely to seek out opportunities for community within their degree programs. Second, students from these populations reported a culture within the engineering and computer science programs that can feel unwelcoming and at times hostile. Results from this study were presented to faculty and staff at a college-wide meeting. This was followed by a series of activities in which faculty and staff brainstormed ideas for how we could better support students from underrepresented and marginalized groups, with a focus on six categories: 1) adaptation and integration into academic life, 2) student sense of belonging, 3) student preparedness upon admission, 4) student professional development, 5) faculty/staff professional development, and 6) college culture of diversity and inclusion. Utilizing both the data collected from students and the results of the faculty & staff brainstorming activity, a number of new programs have been introduced. They include: • training workshops on issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) for both students and faculty/staff, • community building events during new student summer orientation, • a summer online community for new students in the College of Science and Engineering, • DEI Student Ambassadors program, • syllabus statements on inclusion, and • a summer reading group for faculty and staff. We have facilitated a number of workshops on DEI. Part of this has been to leverage outside expertise. We have arranged for faculty and staff to participate in seminars offered by the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE), with topics such as designing an inclusive classroom and Safe Zone Workshops. We have brought in an outside expert to hold workshops for both students and for faculty & staff on microaggressions. In addition, we have designed a bystander intervention workshop that can be run internally for faculty and staff. The workshop starts with a short introduction to core DEI concepts. Then participants are divided into small teams to brainstorm how to respond to scenarios involving microaggressions. The workshop ends with each group reporting about their conversations and general discussion of all participants. We have run this workshop twice, once with the faculty and staff members of our college’s Committee for DEI, and once at a meeting for faculty and staff in one of the departments in our college. Future workshops will be offered both in department meetings and as stand-alone events for any faculty and staff in the college. Every summer, the university organizes several orientation events for new students. Students and their families come to campus for two days of informational sessions, tours, and discussions. This past summer, we organized sessions aimed at building a supportive community for new students in our college. As the beginning of each session, two faculty members and a professional advisor divided students into groups based on their majors. After introductions, each group discussed and wrote down their biggest fears about their first year in college and what they are looking forward to. Then, the students were sent on a scavenger hunt throughout the buildings where their major departments are located. Groups that completed their tasks first were given prizes. The session concluded with the facilitators addressing students’ biggest fears about their first year in college. Following these events, we organized an online community for new students in our college. About one thid of incoming students participated in all or some of the nine online activities. The activities included games, trivia, self-introduction, getting to know their fellow students in their majors, their hometowns, and their dormitories. There were discussion topics and useful information posted such as how to be successful as a first-year student, best transportation options for getting around the city, and lists of best restaurants near the university. Students who participated in the summer orientation events and the online community felt that these initiatives helped them make meaningful connections with other students in their major. In March of 2020, we hired a team of students to serve as DEI ambassadors for the college. They were tasked with developing plans for student-centered DEI events, and to provide a student voice in the college’s DEI committee. With the transition to remote instruction due to the coronavirus, their planned activities were put on hold. They shifted their focus to addressing how remote instruction might disproportionally impact students from underrepresented and marginalized populations. They organized a virtual town hall for students to discuss with faculty and staff what successes and struggles they were encountering during remote learning. Faculty were able to shift some practices to better support students, and to think about how to make remote or online classes in the future more accessible and inclusive. The DEI ambassadors also worked with us to design a survey to examine differences in remote learning experiences for students from marginalized and underrepresented populations. The timeframe of IRB approval was such that this survey could not be administered during the spring, but will hopefully be approved to use if remote learning continues in some form in the fall of 2020. A sample syllabus statement on inclusion was written and made available to faculty. Multiple departments have chosen to make it a standard part of their syllabi, and individual faculty in other departments have included it as well. In addition to outlining general principles of inclusion within the classroom, the statement provides students with specific links to resources at the university that are available to them to report incidences of bias and discrimination. Anecdotally, faculty have reported hearing from students that these statements make them feel safer and more supported in raising concerns that they have around diversity, equity, and inclusion. In response to a growing faculty & staff interest in better understanding DEI issues, we organized a reading & discussion group for the summer of 2020. Virtual meetings are being held to discuss articles, books, and videos related to DEI, along with online message boards for asynchronous discussion. In these discussions, an emphasis is placed on how the ideas in the readings can be turned into specific actions within the college. The paper gives more details about each of the above mentioned initiatives. We conclude the paper with a reflection on how we can improve our community building events and the online community and describe our future support services for underrepresented students.
Miguel, A., & Sloughter, J. M., & Dorsey, J. M., & Hartley, R., & Shih, F. J., & Crevier, J. (2021, January), What's Next? From Analysis to Action Paper presented at 2021 CoNECD, Virtual - 1pm to 5pm Eastern Time Each Day . 10.18260/1-2--36139
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