IUSE/PFE:RED: Transforming for inclusion: fostering belonging and uniqueness in engineering education and practice

  • Doux, Joseph M.Le (PI)
  • Margulies, Susan S.S. (CoPI)
  • Newstetter, Wendy (CoPI)
  • Schley, Sara S. (CoPI)
  • Ancis, Julie (CoPI)
  • Ethier, Christopher C.R. (CoPI)

Project: Research project

Project Details


Engineers are increasingly called upon to solve society's most complex problems, working in teams to find elegant solutions that meet multiple constraints. Research shows that diverse teams produce superior solutions to complex problems than do homogeneous teams. Unfortunately, the engineering workforce lacks diversity. More importantly, most of today's professional engineers are not trained to interact effectively with diverse individuals so that they are fully included and integrated in the problem-solving process. For this reason, it is critical that we equip today's engineering students with the inclusive strategies needed to fully realize the positive impact provided by high-functioning diverse and inclusive teams. We call this positive impact the inclusion dividend. The purpose of this project is to transform the curriculum of the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University to one that intentionally trains its students to become engineers who are capable of realizing the inclusion dividend. This project will serve as a case study for how to change the culture and curriculum of a high research activity engineering department, and help diversify the image of the 'ideal engineer' so that interested students do not feel they must fit a specific mold to be successful or included. It is expected that these changes in how engineering is perceived will help diversify the nation's engineering student body and workforce.

The project's goal is to revolutionize engineering education to create engineers who are capable of realizing the inclusion dividend. To achieve this vision the department will 1) establish diverse pedagogical incubator teams of students, faculty, industry engineers, and learning scientists to develop novel inclusive classroom practices, 2) iteratively hatch, implement and evaluate classroom activities and strategies that help students and faculty recognize the inclusion dividend and translate that recognition into inclusive interactive strategies, and 3) transform the departmental culture such that the inclusion dividend is embraced and enacted through interactions and practices evidenced one-on-one, in teams, in the classroom, and in department policies and procedures. This project will use two frameworks to guide its efforts: optimal distinctiveness theory and human social systems theory. Optimal distinctiveness theory helps explain why people need to both belong and be unique. Diversity efforts promote distinctiveness but often fail in achieving, for the minority member, a sense of belonging. Or alternatively, a minority member might feel they belong but only at the cost of assimilating to the group norms and giving up their uniqueness. An environment is inclusive only when all participants experience both. This feeling is achieved through inclusive interactional practices. Human social systems theory helps us understand that humans interact on four distinct social scales: in pairs, in small groups, in classrooms, and in larger communities such as departments, each of which requires a specific set of interpersonal skills. Cultures emerge from the constellation of social interactions that take place at each of these scales. To achieve the vision of a diverse and inclusive engineering workforce that is able to fully realize the inclusion dividend, this project seeks to equip engineers with the knowledge and skills they need to interact inclusively at all four social scales. This project will advance our knowledge of how to develop these multi-scale interpersonal competencies within engineering students. This project is jointly funded by the Division of Undergraduate Education; the Division of Engineering Education and Centers; and the Division of Chemical, Bioengineering, Environmental and Transport Systems; reflecting the alignment of this project with the respective goals of the divisions and their programs.

Effective start/end date7/15/176/30/24


  • National Science Foundation: $2,394,872.00


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