Sowing the Seeds of Diversity in Engineering

March 18, 2021
12:00 pm


Engineering organizations succeed when they successfully leverage diverse perspectives and include differing viewpoints. The lack of women and underrepresented minorities (URM) in engineering is a problem that no single solution can address. Not only are there the pipeline issues, but the challenges these groups face in navigating their careers need to be addressed. At the University of California, Davis, we’ve partnered with Chevron and the Koret Foundation to launch Avenue-E, a community college transfer program designed to eliminate barriers that hold back women and underrepresented minorities in engineering and computer science. The program serves high potential, low resource students from families in which neither parent holds a bachelor’s degree. We also believe a core component of changing the landscape is ensuring that women and URM in engineering see other women and URM at all levels.

In 2012, UC Davis received a NSF-ADVANCE grant that aimed at increasing the participation and advancement of women in academic engineering careers. Among many projects, we trained faculty members about best practices for faculty recruitment and implicit bias. We established central oversight of faculty hiring to ensure diversity and inclusivity, and expected contributions to diversity from all applicants for faculty positions. Contributions to diversity are expected in all merit and promotion review actions, and superior contributions to diversity are recognized and rewarded in review actions. Nine years later, U.C. Davis has shown dramatic changes at all levels. Forbes named UC Davis the Best Value College for women in STEM fields, based on a metric that includes persistence to graduation and the value of education received. The real difference is that our community has genuinely embraced the mission of inclusivity and diversity, rather than a top-down mandate.

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Jennifer Sinclair Curtis

Dr. Jennifer Sinclair Curtis is Distinguished Professor of Chemical Engineering and former Dean of the College of Engineering at University of California, Davis. She previously served as Associate Dean for Engineering Research and Department Chair of Chemical Engineering at the University of Florida. She also previously served as Associate Dean for Undergraduate Engineering Education at Purdue University. She is a Fellow of APS, AAAS, ASEE and AIChE. She is a recipient of AIChE’s Particle Technology Forum’s Lifetime Achievement Award, a Fulbright Senior Research Scholar Award, AIChE's Thomas-Baron Award in Fluid-Particle Systems, the William R. Jones Outstanding Mentor Award (McKnight Doctoral Fellowship Program), ASEE’s Chemical Engineering Lectureship Award, ASEE’s Benjamin Garver Lamme Award, ASEE's Sharon Keillor Award for Women in Engineering, and the NSF Presidential Young Investigator Award. She received her PhD in Chemical Engineering from Princeton University and her BS in Chemical Engineering from Purdue University which recently recognized her as a distinguished engineering alumna. She currently serves as Co-Chair of the National Academies’ Board on Chemical Sciences and Technology.

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