You are on page 1of 10

Improving Diversity in the School of Engineering

Prepared for:

School of Engineering

The University of New Mexico

Prepared by:

Ethan Darwin

Cameron Sanchez

Alexander Shoham

Maxim Vitkovsky

December 4, 2018
Table of Contents
Introduction..................................................................................................................................... 3
Methodology ................................................................................................................................... 3
Solutions:..................................................................................................................................... 4
Results ............................................................................................................................................. 4
Creativity: .................................................................................................................................... 4
Diversity Training: ...................................................................................................................... 5
Travel Abroad Program:.............................................................................................................. 6
Scholarships: ............................................................................................................................... 7
Graphs............................................................................................................................................. 8
Discussion of the Results ................................................................................................................ 9
Conclusions ..................................................................................................................................... 9
References ..................................................................................................................................... 10

Table of Figures
Figure 1: Ethnicity in Engineering .................................................................................................. 8
Figure 2: Women in Engineering .................................................................................................... 8
Introduction
Engineers mostly use problem solving and creativity to design and improve aspects of the world.
Research groups and companies strive to solve problems in the daily world. They accomplish
this by perfecting and improving upon past designs to make their new designs more efficient.
Companies and research groups use collective problem solving and teamwork to complete the
projects they are working on. There are many different factors that limit the productivity in the
workplace such as work experience, diligence, and collaboration, but a major aspect that
determines a group’s ability to solve problems and be more productive is diversity.
Unfortunately, diversity within the School of Engineering (SOE) at the University of New
Mexico (UNM) is low. As seen in Figure 2: Women in Engineering, minorities and women do
not have the support and help need to succeed at the same level the majority. Diversity allows a
hiring committee to have a greater pool of applicants with varying experiences and knowledge.
Their experience and knowledge can be both professional and personal, which can be helpful
during the problem-solving process. A diverse environment of individuals expands the possible
solutions a group can develop for a given problem. With more solutions to a given problem there
is a greater chance there will be a better and more efficient solution. Diversity is the most
important part problem solving within engineering. Diversity is a vital part of the engineering
design process and is mostly controlled by the majority of white male engineers. The School of
Engineering at the University of New Mexico can provide the skills for engineering students to
be more diverse for post-graduation by using creativity, diversity training, travel abroad
program, and scholarships within the program.

Diversity has always been a problem in society as seen in Figure 1: Ethnicity in Engineering, but
it is a much bigger issue in the engineering field. Racial diversity is a major issue within the
engineering field. The “overall enrollment [of students from all ethnic backgrounds] has dropped
3 percent since 1992, but minority enrollment has dropped 9 percent! African-American
enrollment has dropped 17 percent! The percentage of women has held steady, just a tad under
20 percent of the entering freshman class” [1]. Many people in the field of engineering have felt
that they have been discriminated against. There are many types of discrimination; individual
institutional, past and present, accepted discrimination, prejudice, and stereotypes. We have set
out to develop a viable solution that the SOE can implement to improve the situation at UNM.

Methodology
When considering a problem in the school engineering that needs to be improved to enhance
success in post-graduation careers. It was proposed that the problem should focus on the topic of
diversity, although funding is a huge part of research and the field itself. The main reason why
diversity was chosen because diversity plays a vital role in problem solving, a major skill
engineers must have, but yet it is not adequately addressed at UNM. Diversity has a huge impact
on problems solving due to different ideas it helps the team come up with. If a team was able to
come up with a good idea for a project or research, the funding will be easier to attain because it
will be easier to convince investors that it is worth the risk. As diversity is scrutinized within the
engineering field there are different problems that can be raised. Major ones are the lack of
presence of the opposite sex and minorities in the field of engineering. People are too closed
minded to think in different and new ways. Thus, groups tend to consist of like-minded
individuals which hurts the team’s output of original and new ideas and that ultimately limits
their and the company’s success in the project they are working on.

Solutions:
● Creativity: enhance course to be more creative use critical thinking skills
● Diversity training: Require students to attend more courses geared toward diversity
throughout different cultures and religions. Bring outside professors to lecture at UNM.
● Benefits of traveling the world: Sponsoring trips for faculty and students around the
world to become more familiar with foreign engineering approaches.
● Scholarships: Scholarships for students that are female and/or from minority groups who
want to pursue a career in engineering.

Results
Creativity:
Americans are sensitive to the idea of diversity in the workplace because of the history of slavery
and the fight for the civil rights in 1954. Throughout history, activists have fought for their rights
of equality. Thanks to the many movements and social changes that there have been, many laws
created such as the Equal Rights Amendment in the Constitution, Equal Employment
Opportunity Act, and Affirmative Action. These were made to increase the jobs for minorities
but over time the result of the laws has not provided equality within the workplace, especially in
engineering. People of different ethnicities are treated unfairly within the workplace.

A main facet of engineering requires the use of creativity and imagination. Engineers are
required to design and critically think about different problems found in real life. Engineers need
to have a design aesthetic and imagination to be successful at critically thinking and problem
solving. Collaboration in teams and groups is a major step to thinking critically about problems
and ultimately coming up with viable solutions to them.

Diversity within a workplace brings various people with very different backgrounds to a
company or research group [2]. People are influenced by a plethora of perspectives and
experiences. They have various backgrounds that will have differing values and experiences.
These life experiences, both personal and professional, will help the company or research group
have better solutions to whatever challenge they are trying to overcome in their projects. The
imagination and creativity of a person is directly influenced by their surroundings. Engineers
design and improve problems in the real world because they or others have problems that there is
no solution to yet.
School of Engineering at the University of New Mexico needs to enhance the courses it offers to
be more creative and use critical thinking skills in projects. These courses need students to apply
the concepts learned in class but also think about the design for consumer use and aesthetic. The
courses need to encourage students use their critical and problem-solving skills to accomplish the
task. With the use of creativity in the engineering courses, students will have to use different
methods and more innovative ideas to solve the problem.

Diversity Training:
Students at the University of New Mexico enjoy a wide variation of diversity and are privileged
to have this opportunity within the UNM community. There are students from all around the
world that come to the University of New Mexico, yet there is still a sense of obliviousness to
the cultural differences around students graduating with degrees [3]. Diversity within the School
of Engineering at UNM is lower compared to other colleges, but students have opportunities to
make relationship through varying courses. UNM has all the tools to change the School of
Engineering to become a school that offers a platform for students to diversify them within the
school environment. The School of Engineering has the opportunity to give students long-lasting
lessons about the different cultures within the UNM community. Some students should work
overseas and expand their cultural horizon, but most will stay in areas that they feel most
comfortable with. The School of Engineering can help make various fields within engineering
more are culturally diverse, and make sure that students are given the skills they need to feel
more comfortable with differing perspectives.

A potential solution for this problem has to make a long-term impact on students so they carry
this knowledge with them beyond their college years. A solution could be creating classes that
are taught by professors from other countries with other cultural backgrounds [4]. Those classes
must be designed in a way that allows students to experience the different ways of approaching
engineering. Through this process guest professors from other universities, especially
universities abroad, can be invited to present different methods of engineering. There are many
different approaches to engineering that are specific to a certain region and connecting local
students with professors with these unique approaches can help maximize the problem-solving
abilities of a team.

Another potential solution could be a diversity education and training program, that is designed
to encourage dialogue and interaction among students about issues related to diversity.
Understanding the differences and similarities that the University of New Mexico community
members bring to the campus make for a better relationship between the community members
and a richer educational environment. By taking a proactive, rather than reactive, approach to
diversity education, the program would seek to build competencies and thought processes among
UNM students that prepare them for living and working in a diverse community at UNM and
beyond.
Workshops would be implemented to build a socially conscious community, each workshop
would be open to all students, faculty, staff and accessible to a variety of prior engagement levels
and facilitated with warmth by members of a multicultural team.

Travel Abroad Program:


Another possible way to increase the diversity of a group is to sponsor trips abroad for students.
It could be a study-abroad program or a summer/winter break trip, sponsored by the University
of New Mexico or the research project the student is working on.

Trips to countries with different cultures than what a person is used to are proven to be very
beneficial for problem-solving, and thus for growing as an engineer. They help to broaden the
student’s perspective of the world because it changes and expands their culture. This perspective
change happens because of the contact they made with other cultures and people. This broader
perspective helps to encourage and fuel one to have more flexibility in problem solving and
finding new and innovative solutions to problems that help to push the project forward much
faster. It also helps the students do better in classes because they gain a better ability to solve
homework problems.

Traveling helps with learning a new language which in turn helps to better understand what
others are saying, especially if they are not native speakers. Some studies also suggest that
knowing more languages helps to have a deeper understanding of how the world works, and
understanding the problem better is the first step to solving the problem. Traveling is especially
good for learning a new language because it immerses the person in the new language and
culture, so the person is essentially in a class, learning that new language 24/7, instead of just a
few hours per week in a normal class.

People who travel find it easier to learn new skills. They learn to be more social, flexible, open-
minded, and independent, among many other important skills. They acquire a better judgment,
an essential skill for successful problem-solving, and it even enhances their development as a
person.

Traveling is also helpful for expanding one’s social group or network because they build
connections, both personal and professional, all around the world. Travelers have the unique
opportunity to learn about a variety of things from a large pool of unique individuals, much
larger than most people can ever have access too. The more a person learns, the more they can
contribute to a brainstorming session because they have a larger pool of information to pull from
to find a solution.

Finally, traveling enhances the creativity of an individual. “According to a study in Personality


and Social Psychology Bulletin, individuals who experience or adopt new cultures have
enhanced creativity than individuals who hadn't experienced a new culture. Recalling a
multicultural experience (a) facilitates idea flexibility (e.g., the ability to solve problems in
multiple ways), (b) increases awareness of underlying connections and associations, and (c)
helps to overcome functional fixedness” [5]. By literally forcing a person to step out of their
comfort zone, traveling forces people to learn how to break out of the box they are living in and
that helps to increase one’s creativity significantly. Additionally, breaking apart this box helps to
make a person more open-minded, which helps them be more interested in diversity, both
internal, for personal growth and creativity, and external, which will help to increase diversity in
engineering because more open-minded people will be more willing to hire a diverse team.

With these various ways traveling improves problem solving and creativity, it is easy to see how
important a travel abroad program would be to improve the diversity of engineering students,
both in the sense of open-mindedness and acceptance of diversity, and of how many diverse
individuals are applying to the SOE at UNM.

Scholarships:
Minorities that grow up in areas where there is not a well-established education system
especially for K-12 are at a higher risk for dropping out of college. Educational systems that do
not meet standards and do not benefit the children. Educators that do not do a proficient job at
teaching children will not inspire and help them in their future endeavors, especially if they are at
a disadvantage to begin with, minorities or women. Financial aid such as scholarships, is needed
for educational systems to provide a better education for students. Educators that have a higher
salary will be more likely to provide a better education for minorities to be inspired to pursue an
engineering degree. These educators will help create more engineering classes being taught in
high school. It is needed in order to increase the diversity in engineering early on because
opinions about whether engineering is cool or too complicated for the student is usually formed
early on in a child’s mind.

Some “Reasons that have been suggested for low female graduation rates include lack of female
engineering role models, misconceptions of what it is like to be an engineer and having fewer
technical problem-solving opportunities through K-12 compared to men. Cohoon believes that
lack of confidence is a huge factor, especially competing with men.” [6] Therefore, women and
minorities need more scholarships to encourage them to apply for college and pursue an
engineering degree, and thus making the field more diverse.

Funding is a main obstacle for diversity in engineering. The School of Engineering at UNM can
create a program for scholarships. The scholarships would be targeting minorities and women to
come to the SOE. Providing minorities and women wanting to pursue an engineering degree with
more and better scholarships, will increase UNM’s engineering diversity statistics.

If courses are difficult, tutoring should be provided at discounted rates for diverse individuals.
Most minorities including women do not join engineering fields because of the funding and the
intense course load requirements that increase the chances that a student will drop out. There are
programs in other states such as New York that reward high school and college students in the
top 10 percent to join STEM fields [7]. This incentive can be applied to the school of
engineering. Students who prove they deserve a degree in engineering with a GPA greater than
3.5 will be able to apply for a scholarship. Incentives allow more minority students including
women to join the field of engineering to pursue a degree. Allowing more diversity in the School
of Engineering, allows engineering students to be ready for post-graduation in their career by
making them more open-minded. After graduation, students will be more accustomed to new
diverse people in the work field. Diverse colleagues are what creates new ideas in the field. With
included incentives, more women and minority students will be interested in earning a degree in
engineering.

Graphs

Figure 1: Ethnicity in Engineering

Figure 2: Women in Engineering


Discussion of the Results
Based on the research, the growth rate of diversity including women and minorities within the
Engineering fields are declining. In order to increase the growth rate of women and minorities in
the field of engineering, the University of New Mexico needs to provide the skills for
engineering students to be more diverse for post-graduation through creativity, diversity training,
traveling abroad, and scholarships.

Diversity within engineering is steadily declining. Minority enrollment in engineering in the


Unites States has dropped nine percent since 1992. The reason for this decline is the separation
of classes within society throughout the United States. People who need money are not going to
go to college for four years to get a job because they need a job right now to survive. This is also
the reason why the dropout rate for minorities is higher for minorities. Some students might drop
out to help support their parents because the cost of attending in college is too expensive for
them. To help solve this, scholarships are important for minorities including women because
they lower the cost of going to college. Scholarships will prevent people from accumulating
enormous amounts debt while trying to get an engineering degree.

The final component is increasing the diversity students already in the SOE by promoting and
sponsoring student trips abroad and study-abroad programs. The research has shown that by
experiencing new and diverse cultures, student’s problem-solving abilities and open mindedness
also increases and improve.

Conclusions
After all of the research was conducted, the team has proposed to provide increased funding for
the SOE at UNM in order to attract minorities to engineering fields. With more funds, it allows
competitions and rewards for minorities including more women to join. The funding may be
scholarships from private donors and grants. Increasing the diversity in engineering will allow a
significant increase in innovation and creativity throughout the industry, which in and of itself
will help to promote more diversity. Increased funding at the allows the SOE to organize more
STEM related classes in high schools that will serve to attract more minorities and women to
pursue a career in engineering because they will be more aware of the benefits of studying
engineering. Furthermore, expanded funding will allow the university to provide, sponsor, and
promote creativity, diversity training, travel abroad programs, and scholarships within the
program which will benefit both each individual student and the engineering community at large.
References

[1] W. A. Wulf, "The Importance of Diversity in Engineering," National Academies Press,


April 2016. [Online]. Available: National Academies Press: OpenBook,
www.nap.edu/read/10377/chapter/4. [Accessed 26 November 2018].

[2] J. D’ath, "Why Improving Gender Diversity in STEM Should Be a Priority," Wave Machine
| STEM, 22 Febuary 2018. [Online]. Available: www.stem.org.uk/news-and-
views/opinions/why-improving-gender-diversity-stem-should-be-priority. [Accessed 26
November 2018].

[3] "How Diverse Is University of New Mexico - Main Campus?," College Factual, 27
September 2018. [Online]. Available: www.collegefactual.com/colleges/university-of-new-
mexico-main-campus/student-life/diversity/. [Accessed 26 November 2018].

[4] "Diversity Education & Training," Columbia College and Columbia Engineering, 9 January
2018. [Online]. Available: www.cc-seas.columbia.edu/OMA/diversityed. [Accessed 26
November 2018].

[5] M. Ludin, "Why You Should Experience Other Cultures," The Odyssey Online, 31 October
2017. [Online]. Available: www.theodysseyonline.com/should-experience-cultures.
[Accessed 26 November 2018].

[6] M. Crawford, "Engineering Still Needs More Women," ASME.org, September 2012.
[Online]. Available: www.asme.org/career-education/articles/undergraduate-
students/engineering-still-needs-more-women. [Accessed 26 November 2018].

[7] C. Sealey-Morris, "STEM Scholarships | Top 25," College Consensus, 18 June 2018.
[Online]. Available: www.collegeconsensus.com/scholarships/stem-scholarships/. [Accessed
26 November 2018].