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30 for 30 Profile: Iowa State College of Engineering

December 7, 2022

The Iowa State College of Engineering is a Women in Engineering Proactive Network (WEPAN) 30 for 30 Institutional Champion, and Connie Hargrave was recently named the College’s first associate dean for equity and engagement. To Dean Hargrave, joining WEPAN was a “no-brainer” type of decision.

“The discipline has historically been male-dominated, and that influences the narratives we use to explain engineering, even the problems we use in teaching the field,” she says. “WEPAN creates a unique space that focuses on women in engineering and the issues surrounding women in engineering, which helps empower women and connect us to others in the same space.”

Connie Hargrave
Dean Connie Hargrave

While Hargrave is new to the College, she’s been a DEI advocate at Iowa State for over two decades. One of her proudest accomplishments is Science Bound, a program designed at Iowa State that identifies students of color from underrepresented racial groups at the middle school level and asks them and their families to make a five-year commitment to studying a STEM area. Students who complete the program’s requirements earn a four-year tuition scholarship to Iowa State. “The program really introduces to both students and to the broader community new ideas about who can be successful in STEM disciplines,” says Hargrave, who recently spoke with a Science Bound graduate completing his master’s degree. “I’m proud of the commitment and investment of the students, their families,  and the university in developing diverse STEM talent at the highest levels.”

In the year Hargrave has been in her new position, she’s already launched initiatives like the Women Faculty Network, which meets monthly so that female faculty members in the College have an opportunity to connect. There’s a different topic of conversation each month, and the group is currently focusing on elevating individual and collective professional profiles. Resulting projects thus far include a poster of all the women faculty in the College, designed to heighten their visibility, and the creation of an electronic directory to make collaboration easier. 

“There’s power in a collective voice. Oftentimes in the academy, we don’t talk about supporting each other enough, and because of how isolating higher education can be, networks just don’t happen. The Network is providing a space for a collaborative way of functioning,” says Hargrave. “Building relationships and leveraging connections advantages each of us individually and the group as a whole.”

Hargrave’s role is to provide vision and direction about DEI initiatives to the College, and she works closely with groups like the Program for Women in Science and Engineering (WiSE), whose mission is to inspire, support, and empower current and future students to persist and thrive in their chosen STEM communities, and the Leadership through Engineering Academic Diversity (LEAD) Program, which provides programs and services to assist in the academic, professional, and social success and retention of self-identifying multicultural, international, and women students. Both programs have helped with DEI retention, according to Hargrave. “Supportive spaces led by staff members demonstrate to students that the College cares about them, and cares about them holistically. Part of being a great engineer is having a sense of community, and LEAD and WISE are key programs for creating relationships with our students.”

Hargrave’s goals for the College are two-fold. First, she wants to fuel the idea that everyone involved in the engineering enterprise, from industry to recruitment staff, has to develop a critical consciousness about the need to be inclusive in engineering. “I want to create a place where that consciousness is visible and demonstrated on an everyday basis. Doing things intentionally to engage women and students of color in STEM should be the norm.”

Related to that, she also wants to maintain discourse on creating structures that make things more inclusive. “Policies, practices, habits, routines. How can we be more equitable and inclusive in ways that change engineering, so that it’s natural to have 40% women in the field?”

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