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2019 CoNECD (Collaborative Network for Engineering and Computer Diversity) Conference Summary

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April 24, 2019

By Catherine (Kitty) Didion, WEPAN Executive Director

WEPAN for its 2019 conference again collaborated with the National Association of Multicultural Program Advocates (NAMEPA), and the Minorities (MIND) and Women in Engineering (WIED) Divisions of the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) for the CoNECD Conference in Arlington, VA from April 14-17, 2019. The vision of the conference is to provide a unique forum for exploring current research and practice on diversity and inclusion of all underrepresented populations in engineering and computing. 400 attendees participated in the conference this year including many WEPAN members. This summary will highlight a few of the sessions at the Conference along with the WEPAN Town Hall and Awards Ceremony. More information on all of the sessions at the conference can be found in the program book for CoNECD 2019.

The WEPAN Executive Board met on Saturday, April 13, 2019 and topics for the board meeting included a session on the upcoming 30th WEPAN anniversary in 2020. More about the 30th anniversary and how one can become involved will be shared in the coming weeks.

DAY 1: WEPAN Workshops
WEPAN held two workshops at CoNECD 2019. The first was Men Allies for Gender Equity and the workshop facilitator was Dr. Roger Green, an associate professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at North Dakota State University and a WEPAN Board member. Green has led similar workshops for many institutions of higher education over the past several years. This interactive workshop encourages and equips men to serve as effective allies for gender equity in STEM settings. The workshop used scenario-based exercises and was very interactive. The lively conversation of the workshop continued well beyond the formal workshop hours.

The second WEPAN workshop was Navigating Conflict Effectively and the workshop facilitator was Kathy Sullivan, Director of Organizational Development, PRADCO. She has spent 20 years coaching and consulting with businesses to develop individuals, teams, and organizations in order to increase productivity and organizational effectiveness. The purpose of the workshop was to identify how one’s style of communication influences how we handle conflict. Participants at the workshop had responded to a Personal Styles Assessment instrument before the workshop. Aggregated data from this assessment provided the opportunity for workshop participants to break into small groups and learn about the four general styles of communication, how to handle negative conflict and ways to strive for productive resolution. Workshop participants expressed how useful and engaging the workshop had been for them and how their assessment gave them insight along with tools from the workshop to address future conflict.

The conference opened with an evening reception that provided an opportunity for participants to reconnect with WEPAN colleagues as well as meet many new participants.

Hi-5 Talks!

One of WEPAN’s signature events at any of its conferences are the Hi-5 Talks. These are high energy five-minute talks that give the presenter an opportunity to share their content and pose questions for the audience to consider. Presenters may have no more than 20 slides and exactly 15 seconds per slide to tell the audience the importance of their work. At CoNECD 2019 there were 7 talks:

  • Targeted Harassment of Engineering Education Researchers: How to Connect with Community and Support your Colleagues under Attack, Alice L. Pawley, Purdue University
  • Cultural Hackathon: Development and Considerations, Chanel Beebe, Purdue University
  • Dissertation Institute, Stephanie Adams, Old Dominion University
  • STEM Success Matrix: An Alternative Measure for College Admission, Alaine M. Allen, University of Pittsburgh
  • So Much Winning, Ellen Foster and Donna Riley, Purdue University and Stephanie Quiles-Ramos, Virginia Tech
  • Dilemmas in Co-Curricular Support: A Theoretical and Pragmatic Exploration of Current Practice and Future Challenges, Stephen D. Secules, Purdue University
  • Re-Visioning Promotion & Tenure Process to include Both Formative and Summative Practices around Diversity and Inclusion, Elizabeth Hart and Malle Schilling, University of Dayton

WEPAN Town Hall and Awards Ceremony

On the evening of this day WEPAN held its Town Hall and Award Ceremony.  The Town Hall and Awards Ceremony was moderated by Glenn Weckerlin, Director, University and Association Partnerships, Chevron and WEPAN Board member.  Two interactive sessions were conducted where participants could share via phone text their thoughts including questions about WEPAN.  For example, one question was, “Over the past 30 years, WEPAN has impacted me by …”.  Responses included:
• Building my confidence
• Providing a community of support and inspiration
• Great resource for knowledge and expertise
• Bringing me a group of colleagues around the country
• Getting me involved in this movement in a more organized & empowering way; and
• Knowledge, connections and support

President Linda Katehi gave an update on WEPAN and its current efforts and President-Elect Lee Ann Schwope Cochran shared her vision for WEPAN and the excitement she has for the upcoming 30th anniversary.  Katehi and Cochran underscored that WEPAN’s mission is to advance cultures of inclusion and diversity in engineering education and professions. WEPAN does this by disseminating knowledge of research and best practices; collaborating with our partners in universities, corporations, and not-for-profit organizations; by working to increase the inclusion of diverse communities of women in engineering; and by developing and influencing leadership to advance the success of women in engineering.

The highlight for many of the Town Hall and Awards Ceremony are the WEPAN Awards.  They honor key individuals, programs, and organizations for accomplishments that underscore our mission. They are presented for extraordinary service, significant achievement, model programs, and exemplary work environments that promote a culture of inclusion and the success of women in engineering. The 2019 Award categories and recipients are:

  • WEPAN/DiscoverE Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day Award: University of Illinois at Chicago, Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day
  • Inclusive Culture and Equity Award, Dr. Susan E. Welden, University of Oklahoma
  • WIE Initiative Awards: California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, Women in Engineering Program and Pennsylvania State University, Engineering Mentoring for Internship Excellence (EMIX)
  • Industry Trailblazer Awards: Aicha Evans, Zoox and Cynthia Murphy-Ortega, Chevron
  • Advocates and Allies Award: Dr. Eddy M. Rojas, University of Dayton
  • Bevlee A. Watford Inclusive Excellence Award: Dr. Gregory N. Washington, University of California, Irvine
  • Betty Vetter Research Award: Dr. Joyce B. Main, Purdue University
  • Founders Award: Dr. Julie Martin, Clemson University
  • WEPAN President’s Award: Dr. Lesia Crumpton-Young, Tennessee State University  

More information on the 2019 WEPAN Award winners can be found here. WEPAN is proud to recognize this terrific cadre of winners that embody the leadership we need to create change.

This day began with a terrific morning keynote by Cynthia Murphy-Ortega, who is the Manager of University Partnerships and Association Relations at Chevron. Murphy-Ortega shared her vision for making a difference and how her work has had a positive impact of many generations of current and future engineers. It should be noted that on the previous day Murphy-Ortega was a 2019 WEPAN Industry Trailblazer Award Winner. Her talk was very well received and many participants expressed their appreciation of having a speaker from industry who has such extensive experience.

As an example of the great diversity of sessions that were held at CoNECD 2019, a session on Safe Zone, Deep Dive into Supporting Transgender Students was organized by Dr. Kyle F. Trenshaw, University of Rochester and Dr. Robyn Sandekian, University of Colorado, Boulder. This session was given as part of the ASEE Safe Zone Ally Training Project supported by the National Science Foundation. One can learn more at The workshop was very informative with the presenters underscoring the importance of language in how we engage members of all communities. Language is a small but vital part of creating a climate in one’s institution that is inclusive and welcoming. Several examples were given of inappropriate language and faulty assumptions. The session was very well attended with many participants seeking information on how they could create a more inclusive climate at their institution. A handout which included a glossary of terms and a primer on pronouns was provided. Additional resources for the project can be found here:

A session on the Hidden Curriculum in Engineering is a good example of sessions at CoNECD that highlight current and ongoing research. Laura Gelles of Utah State University presented data on recent research conducted at Utah State University on the impact of hidden curriculum on underrepresented students in engineering. The research, using quantitative and qualitative methods, focused on the hidden curriculum in engineering classes at the university. Gelles defined hidden curriculum as the representation of assumptions, values, attitudes and beliefs one holds that are then manifested in practice in the classroom. In addition to a summary of her research findings, video snippets were provided that powerfully demonstrated how hidden curriculum could impact the participation and retention of diverse students and faculty. The presentation was compelling and many audience members encouraged the presenter to expand her research to other institutions as well as to faculty. A recent publication by researchers at Utah State University on this topic can be found here:

The morning keynote for the last day of the conference was Claude M. Steele, Professor of Psychology, Stanford University who spoke on Stereotype Threat and Identity Threat, The Science of a Diverse Community. Steele noted that much of the pedagogy we still use in the classroom and for education broadly came from an era of a much more homogenous population. Examples he cited included the lecture format and standardized testing. He explained that it was a time when students (and faculty) were told to “leave their identities at the door of the classroom.” The assumption was that this could be done – but in fact it is not possible. Steele provided several powerful examples of how we all bring who we are into any learning environment. He stressed that any population can be placed in a situation of identity threat. He referenced an experiment where students were put in a room with a few extra chairs and asked to arrange the room for a discussion – the variables were the race of the students to be added (White or African American) and the topics to be discussed (racial profiling or love and relationships). How the students set up the chairs for the conversation was directly related to the information given them as to the race of the students that would join the discussion and the topic selected.

Several members of the audience asked questions and sought advice as to how to better engage in diverse communities. One of his recommended strategies that he thought would have broad utility was to decentralize oneself in the communication. Ask questions rather than be self-conscious and do not seek to “perform.” His advice was “just have a conversation.”

Steele shared some personal stories from his own journey and how he had to learn to relax his own vigilance early in his career. He argued that for many successful students it is not just about preparation but it is a function of having the experience of handling many kinds of situations. One must first acknowledge the situation and how it makes one feel and from this recognition hope can be articulated.

He believes that you can scale programs that impact stereotype threat and gave the example of the Chemistry Department at University of California, Berkeley. The department decided not only would they produce the best chemists in the world today but that they would train the best future chemists in the world. Therefore, they invested time and cultural capital in how the students and faculty engaged with weekly meetings and increased collaboration with students.Such an example gives him hope. Steele argues that this challenge is “the history of our society” and it is “harder than rocket science” but one we must all address. His keynote was very well received with many participants sharing how his research had impacted their work. A YouTube video of a recent talk by him on stereotype threat can be viewed here:

There were two sessions on this day that may be of great interest to WEPAN members as they were on evaluation and funding. The first session on Demystifying Evaluation: Meet Your New Best Friend in Change-Making was led by Dr. Elizabeth Litzler and Dr. Cara Margherio, University of Washington. It focused on how one can ensure that a project has a successful evaluation. The presenters provided examples of good relationships as well as failing relationships that evaluators have had with projects and grants. The number one problem cited by evaluators is the lack of consistent communication with the leaders of the project they are responsible for evaluating. A lively discussion followed on the importance of setting reasonable expectations for an evaluation (including the budget). A handout that could be used as a tool for setting such expectations was distributed. The presenters reviewed the importance of “Diversity, Equity, Inclusion (DEI) Specific Expectations” in determining if you and your project are aligned with the values of your evaluator. The session ended with suggestions on how to find a good evaluator in your area. One of the recommended web sites to use is the American Evaluation Association (

The second session was on Writing a Successful Engineering Education Proposal for the National Science Foundation: An Interactive Workshop and was led by Dr. Paige E. Smith, Program Director, Directorate for Engineering, National Science Foundation (NSF). She initially gave a broad overview of funding opportunities at NSF and reviewed sources for information on grant procedures and highlighted several significant web pages on the NSF web site. In addition, as the lead staff member for the Broadening Participation of Engineering (BPE) program at NSF, she noted recent changes made in terms of deadlines in the directorate. The directorate is implementing the submission of proposals with no deadlines. Smith had the session participants break into small groups to provide them an opportunity to focus on different aspects of securing a grant from NSF. The breakout groups provided an opportunity for more experienced grantees to share their knowledge with participants. The feedback was that this session was timely and very useful for any individual or organization considering submission of a proposal to NSF. More information on NSF’s Broadening Participation in Engineering (BPE) is here:

The conference concluded mid-day after a plenary session that gave conference participants the opportunity to provide feedback on the conference to the organizing committee.

WEPAN 2019 CoNECD Conference Committee

Lora Leigh Chrystal, 2019 WEPAN Conference Chair and WEPAN 30th Anniversary Co-Chair, Iowa State University
Catherine (Kitty) Didion, WEPAN representative, CoNECD 2019 Organizing Committee
Roger Green, WEPAN 30th Anniversary Co-Chair, North Dakota State University
Teri Reed, Workshops Chair, University of Cincinnati
Rachelle Reisberg, Awards Chair, Northeastern University
Sheila Ross, Hi-5 Chair, Milwaukee School of Engineering
Lee Ann Schwope Cochran, WEPAN Corporate Liaison
Glenn Weckerlin, Town Hall and Awards Ceremony MC, Chevron

April 19-22, 2020

Save the date for next year’s CoNECD conference (April 19-22, 2020 in Arlington, VA.)

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