I am writing to share good news and request input for my upcoming NSF Workshop 3/16-3/21/2014.
The Directorate for Education and Human Resources has implemented a new program for “Improving Undergraduate STEM Education” (IUSE) through its Division of Undergraduate Education (EHR/DUE). An “Ideas Lab” is a new merit review strategy being used at the National Science Foundation to address grand challenges in STEM research and education. The Ideas Lab process is modeled on the “IDEAS Factory” program  http://www.epsrc.ac.uk/funding/routes/network/ideas/Pages/experience.aspx developed by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) of the United Kingdom. The Ideas Lab process starts with submission of a brief application to participate in the Ideas Lab, indicating a Principal Investigator’s interest in and preliminary ideas regarding the specific Ideas Lab topic. A diverse sub-set of participants from a range of disciplines and backgrounds will be selected from the submitted applications by NSF and will be brought together in an intensive, interactive and free-thinking environment, where participants immerse themselves in a collaborative dialog in order to construct bold and innovative approaches.
I have been selected to participate in the workshop below and would like your input. Please provide your answer to 1) Why did you choose engineering? 2) How can we get more folks (as described below) to choose engineering? What new strategies could be used????
Social inequality in engineering education and practice is a durable problem, one that has resisted perennial efforts to “broaden participation,” “increase diversity,” or “improve recruitment and retention of women, minorities, and people with disabilities.” While a great deal of previous and ongoing work has focused on fostering the ability of individuals to access and persist in the engineering education system, this Ideas Lab will focus on changing the system itself.
Ending inequality in engineering is crucial because it represents a direct and effective way to meet workforce needs; because members of marginalized groups should not be on the sidelines in shaping our infrastructure and technological future; because workforce diversity strengthens work product; and because increased participation in high paying, prestigious workforce sectors like engineering is itself a strategy for achieving greater equity.
Many prior efforts for inclusion have been hampered by a presumption that certain parameters can’t be changed (for example, eligibility criteria, narrow definitions of what counts in or as engineering, limited roles for 2-year institutions, or a four year degree model). This ends in disappointment and frustration when change is not achieved. A radical rethinking is needed to move forward.
In the Engineering Phase I Ideas Lab, engineers and social scientists will face head on the systems and structures that reproduce social inequality in engineering education and in the engineering workforce. A complete and direct discussion is not afraid to examine manifestations of racism, sexism, and ableism in engineering, and to also consider classism, heteronormativity, ageism, and obstacles faced by Veterans and other non-traditional groups. The Engineering Phase I Ideas Lab will generate new framings and new strategies to move the nation toward greater inclusion of marginalized groups in engineering.
Dr. Jamie Rogers, IMSE Faculty