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Engineering educators attempt to increase diversity

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SALT LAKE CITY (News4Utah) -The high paying Utah jobs of the future will be in the technology industry and we rely on our schools and universities to train the candidates to fill them.

This week the American Society of Engineering Education is having their annual conference in Salt Lake City and one of the topics they’re addressing is diversity in their field.

Dr. Stephanie Adams is the Dean of Engineering at Old Dominion University but as an African American woman she’s an exception.

“We are one of the most underrepresented women on faculty in engineering,” Dr. Adams said. “We’re less than 1 percent of all engineering professors.”

Dr. Pamela McCauley, a Professor of Industrial Engineering at the University of Central Florida, attended a Think Tank hosted by Jeffrey Harris, Managing Partner of Harris Search Associates, an executive search firm based in Dublin, Ohio.

“It really is a pipeline issue,” Dr. McCauley told News4Utah. “In 2015 less than one percent of the Bachelors’ degrees in engineering were awarded to African American women and so as you continue in the educational process at the Masters and PhD level those numbers become even more small, so much smaller it’s minuscule.”

The goal of the Think Tank was how to increase those numbers going forward.

Dr. Judy Jackson, the Diversity and Inclusion Officer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology also participated in the Think Tank.

“The country and the world are facing increasingly more challenging situations that require greater knowledge of technology,” Dr. Jackson said. “But this technology also demands a certain social and human understanding of people’s experiences and so it’s important that people from different backgrounds and different experiences participate in developing solutions.”

“Our country is becoming more and more diverse and if we want to engineers to create the next wave of technology then we need to have representation from untapped populations,” Dr. Adams said. “So that means having more women and people of color and so particularly we’re interested in women of color pursuing STEM careers.”

At the meeting Dr. Adams received the 2018 Harriet Tubman Award for Advancing Women of Color in Academic Engineering.

The ASEE Conference runs through Wednesday at the Salt Palace Convention Center.

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