From "Leaky Pipelines" to "Diversity of Thought": What Does "Diversity" Mean in Engineering Education?
2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition Proceedings
The recruitment and retention of women and minorities is a task of paramount importance in engineering programs, and higher education in general. However, despite continued efforts to diversify the student body, women and minorities have remained underrepresented in engineering departments. The rationale for increasing diversity in engineering education can vary, from industry arguments about "filling pipelines" for the labor force, to social justice arguments that everyone should have an equal
... opportunity for success, to cognitive diversity arguments that problems are solved more efficiently with diverse viewpoints. Furthermore, there is significant variation across institutions regarding who is prioritized under the "diversity" umbrella -some highlight women in general, others African American, Hispanic and Latinx men and women, others target students of low socioeconomic status (SES). Finally, initiatives to address diversity also vary widely, from scholarship programs, to extracurricular activities, to integration of the needs and interests of excluded groups into coursework. This research paper draws upon data collected as part of a multi-institutional research study entitled "The Distributed System of Governance in Engineering Education." In it, we analyze diversity discourses among faculty and administrators in engineering programs across the Unites States, and the initiatives deployed in the name of diversity. We use methods of discourse analysis to study how the term "diversity" is leveraged in different contexts to enact certain methods of recruitment and retention of particular populations.