30 for 30 Profile: University of Cincinnati Women in Engineering Program
The Office of Inclusive Excellence and Community Engagement (IECE) is an award-winning department within the College of Engineering and Applied Science at the University of Cincinnati, whose team strives to empower individuals to transform their lives and achieve their highest potential by offering programs, services and scholarships that will enhance learning and lead to their success. Dr. Whitney Gaskins is Assistant Dean of IECE and the only African-American female currently teaching in the faculty of the College of Engineering.
The College is a WEPAN 30 for 30 Institutional Champion. WEPAN’s reputation preceded it, as many of Gaskin’s colleagues are members of and leaders within the organization, and she saw the opportunity to trade best practices with other individuals and groups as a way to bring value to the College. “Being underrepresented in a space like mine, can often be a daunting task. Organizations like WEPAN help create safe spaces where often like-minded women can interact, share ideas, and grow together,” says Gaskins.
Although the College has been doing recruitment and retention programs for nearly 35 years, IECE is relatively new. Launched with just three individuals, including Gaskins, IECE now has ten people working on a variety of projects, such as Women in Engineering programming, K-12 programming, admissions support, retention program management, and diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) training.
IECE’s programming seeks to diversify the college and the university by increasing representation of women and racially and ethnically diverse students. The office also provides support mechanisms to ensure these underrepresented groups have good experiences during their collegiate careers.
These programs have demonstrated effects on the student body. For example, students enrolled in Collaborative Calculus I course, a collaborative learning class, score 12-15 points higher than their counterparts on examinations. Additionally, participants in the E3 program, a comprehensive, nationally respected program which seeks to increase the number of racially and ethnically diverse students, have an overall graduation rate higher than the national average. The College was recently ranked in the top 50 institutions nationally for number of African-American baccalaureate engineering graduates.
Gaskins is also excited about the IECE’s initiatives to create a more inclusive climate on campus, a process that can be fraught with difficulties if there isn’t buy-in from college and university leadership. According to Gaskin, change comes when the administration believes change is warranted.
“We are working to incorporate DEI work into the reappointment, promotion, and tenure process for faculty members and to integrate DEI modules into technical courses throughout student coursework. We’ve already been successful in embedding DEI as an official committee of the college,” says Gaskins.
“The objective of our office is to improve the climate for our college, and we want to see improvement in every aspect; recruitment, retention, climate surveys, and more.”