Amherst Incorporating Diversity Education into the Engineering Curriculum: How Do We Train Students to Work in Diverse Teams?

Lead Institution: University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA

Category: Course/Curricular/Diversity

Date Implemented: June 2006

Website: http://www.umass.edu/ice/igert/curriculum.html

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Program Description: The initial goal of this project was to incorporate diversity education into the required undergraduate Chemical Engineering curriculum at UMass Amherst. Since the project’s inception, the curriculum has been modified to include undergraduate Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) students and two interdisciplinary graduate programs (Graduate Certificate in Cellular Engineering and NIH PREP). The objectives of the new curriculum were to (1) raise awareness about diversity in the engineering workplace among engineering students, including the current percentages of women and minorities at different professional levels and challenges faced by underrepresented individuals in these environments; and (2) educate students about the institutional policies and personal skills, including communication styles, negotiation styles, and management styles, that facilitate diversity in the engineering workplace. The activities included (i) developing lectures to formally discuss diversity issues such as the state of underrepresented groups in the engineering workforce, historical trends, and institutional policies that promote diversity; (ii) developing scenarios involving conflict resolution and diversity that students could role-play and discuss; and (iii) inviting female and minority guest speakers to discuss their personal career paths and experiences. Discussions included examining institutions listed as encouraging for women and minorities and their guidelines for promoting diversity, including strategies for recruiting and hiring, policies for family leave, on-site child care, spousal hiring, part-time work arrangements, and mentoring of women and minorities in the workplace. Guest speakers expose students to individuals who can serve as role models for underrepresented engineering students, raise awareness among the general student body about the challenges faced by women and minorities in engineering, and help to change misperceptions among the general student body regarding “who does engineering.” Other topics discussed include academic career paths, differences in communication and negotiation styles among women and men in the workplace, and strategies for managing and effectively communicating with individuals who have different communication styles.

Anticipated and Actual Outcomes: The anticipated outcomes were that students would have (1) a higher awareness about diversity in the engineering workplace among engineering students, including the current percentages of women and minorities at different professional levels and challenges faced by underrepresented individuals in these environments; and (2) a greater understanding of institutional policies and personal skills, including communication styles, negotiation styles, and management styles, that facilitate diversity in the engineering workplace. Post-graduation, an anticipated outcome was that students receiving this training would work more effectively in diverse teams. Among undergraduate chemical engineering students during 2007-2011, almost all agreed the activities were effective in achieving the stated outcomes. Several students expressed an interest in taking a full three-credit course on diversity and broader impacts in engineering, which was piloted in 2008. Among REU (2006-2011), Graduate Certificate students (2007-2011), and NIH PREP graduate interns (2009-2011), the average student response to course materials has been positive and is increasing over time. The less positive response from earlier years likely reflected the need to adapt certain course materials and case studies for graduate populations.

Assessment Information: The undergraduate chemical engineering component of the program is regularly assessed with student surveys, student interviews, faculty assessment, and alumni surveys as a part of our ongoing ABET assessment. The REU and graduate components of the program are assessed as a part of the external evaluations of these programs, which include student surveys and student focus groups. The initial course materials were developed for undergraduate chemical engineering students, students completed surveys to assess achievement of the program objectives, and the results were shared in an on-campus workshop on diversity education. With the initial positive results from that assessment, our department formally changed the course objectives for our Chemical Engineering Professional Development course.

Funding/Sustainability: Implementation funding was $6,000 from an internal competition for diversity education. These funds went towards purchasing relevant texts, faculty and staff time for assessment, and travel costs for invited guest lecturers. Expansion of the program to REU students and graduate students was supported by grants from the NSF and NIH. The undergraduate Chemical Engineering component materials have been institutionalized and formally integrated into our curriculum. For the components involving REU and graduate students, we continue to apply for federal training grants to offset the costs of assessment and guest speakers. The UMass Graduate School, UMass Provost’s Office, UMass Vice Chancellor for Research and Engagement, College of Engineering, and College of Natural Sciences have provided some matching funds. At the graduate level, the program has been semi-institutionalized, with some discussions of long-term support to develop a curriculum for all graduate students at UMass Amherst. Although the materials have already been developed for both undergraduate and graduate audiences, and the lecture and role-playing aspects of the curriculum can be continued even if no additional funding is obtained, ongoing funding is needed for program evaluation and guest speakers.



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Amherst Incorporating Diversity Education into the Engineering Curriculum: How Do We Train Students to Work in Diverse Teams? Lead Institution: University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA Category: Course/Curricular/Diversity Date Implemented: June 2006 Website: http://www.umass.edu/ice/igert/curriculum.html Program Description: The initial goal of this project was to incorporate diversity education into the required undergraduate Chemical Engineering curriculum at UMass Amherst. Since the project’s inception, the curriculum has been modified to include students during 2007-2011, almost all agreed the activities were undergraduate Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) effective in achieving the stated outcomes. Several students students and two interdisciplinary graduate programs (Graduate expressed an interest in taking a full three-credit course on Certificate in Cellular Engineering and NIH PREP). The diversity and broader impacts in engineering, which was piloted objectives of the new curriculum were to (1) raise awareness in 2008. Among REU (2006-2011), Graduate Certificate about diversity in the engineering workplace among engineer- students (2007-2011), and NIH PREP graduate interns (2009- ing students, including the current percentages of 2011), the average student response to course women and minorities at different professional materials has been positive and is increasing over levels and challenges faced by underrepresented time. The less positive response from earlier years individuals in these environments; and (2) educate likely reflected the need to adapt certain course students about the institutional policies and personal materials and case studies for graduate populations. skills, including communication styles, negotiation Assessment Information: The undergraduate styles, and management styles, that facilitate chemical engineering component of the program is diversity in the engineering workplace. The activi- regularly assessed with student surveys, student ties included (i) developing lectures to formally interviews, faculty assessment, and alumni surveys discuss diversity issues such as the state of underrep- as a part of our ongoing ABET assessment. The resented groups in the engineering workforce, historical trends, REU and graduate components of the program are assessed as a and institutional policies that promote diversity; (ii) developing part of the external evaluations of these programs, which scenarios involving conflict resolution and diversity that include student surveys and student focus groups. The initial students could role-play and discuss; and (iii) inviting female course materials were developed for undergraduate chemical and minority guest speakers to discuss their personal career engineering students, students completed surveys to assess paths and experiences. Discussions included examining achievement of the program objectives, and the results were institutions listed as encouraging for women and minorities and shared in an on-campus workshop on diversity education. With their guidelines for promoting diversity, including strategies for the initial positive results from that assessment, our department recruiting and hiring, policies for family leave, on-site child formally changed the course objectives for our Chemical care, spousal hiring, part-time work arrangements, and mentor- Engineering Professional Development course. ing of women and minorities in the workplace. Guest speakers Funding/Sustainability: Implementation funding was $6,000 expose students to individuals who can serve as role models for from an internal competition for diversity education. These underrepresented engineering students, raise awareness among funds went towards purchasing relevant texts, faculty and staff the general student body about the challenges faced by women time for assessment, and travel costs for invited guest lecturers. and minorities in engineering, and help to change mispercep- Expansion of the program to REU students and graduate tions among the general student body regarding “who does students was supported by grants from the NSF and NIH. The engineering.” Other topics discussed include academic career undergraduate Chemical Engineering component materials paths, differences in communication and negotiation styles have been institutionalized and formally integrated into our among women and men in the workplace, and strategies for curriculum. For the components involving REU and graduate managing and effectively communicating with individuals who students, we continue to apply for federal training grants to have different communication styles. offset the costs of assessment and guest speakers. The UMass Anticipated and Actual Outcomes: The anticipated outcomes Graduate School, UMass Provost’s Office, UMass Vice were that students would have (1) a higher awareness about Chancellor for Research and Engagement, College of Engineer- diversity in the engineering workplace among engineering ing, and College of Natural Sciences have provided some students, including the current percentages of women and matching funds. At the graduate level, the program has been minorities at different professional levels and challenges faced semi-institutionalized, with some discussions of long-term by underrepresented individuals in these environments; and (2) support to develop a curriculum for all graduate students at a greater understanding of institutional policies and personal UMass Amherst. Although the materials have already been skills, including communication styles, negotiation styles, and developed for both undergraduate and graduate audiences, and management styles, that facilitate diversity in the engineering the lecture and role-playing aspects of the curriculum can be workplace. Post-graduation, an anticipated outcome was that continued even if no additional funding is obtained, ongoing students receiving this training would work more effectively in funding is needed for program evaluation and guest speakers. diverse teams. Among undergraduate chemical engineering 23