After launching several initiatives to encourage diversity and inclusiveness, Cal Poly’s College of Engineering was recognized recently by the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) as a national leader in inclusive excellence.
The ASEE, a non-profit member association dedicated to promoting and improving engineering and engineering education, launched the National Diversity Recognition Program in April with the support of over 200 engineering schools and colleges. After an ASEE committee reviewed Cal Poly’s application, it rated Cal Poly at the Bronze level, the highest issued during the first round of ratings.
“This award affirms and recognizes the many efforts we have undertaken to date to be more inclusive,” said College of Engineering Dean Amy S. Fleischer. “At the same time, we will continue to take more steps to improve diversity, inclusion and equity. By creating an inclusive and diverse community we will foster a diversity of ideas that will fuel great innovation.”
The rating was the first national effort to publicly recognize institutions for their success in building a diverse workforce.
“While other efforts have sought to award individuals or organizations for singular efforts in diversity, equity and inclusion, this recognition utilizes self-assessment, metrics and reforms to propel units in advancing systemic institutional change,” said Gregory N. Washington, chair of ASEE Engineering’s Dean’s Council and the dean of UC Irvine’s Samueli School of Engineering.
The engineering field has reported a need for a more diverse mix of professionals, which led the ASEE Board of Directors to declare the 2014-2015 academic year the Year of Action on Diversity. During that year, the ASEE implemented numerous awareness and implementation activities in response to data on continued – and in some cases worsening – underrepresentation of various minority groups. And in January, 2017, the ASEE Engineering Deans Council issued the ASEE Deans Diversity Pledge, which was signed by over 220 members, including Cal Poly’s College of Engineering.
“We want all students to be able to take advantage of the many great opportunities Cal Poly’s Learn by Doing experience offers,” Fleischer said. “So we want to improve retention rates of underrepresented students. We are also working to increase diversity in future enrollment so the college better reflects the population of our state and the workforce that drive California’s economy, culture and communities.”
Each institution which submitted an application received two reviews from a team of 24 reviewers, conducted by an augmented Engineering Deans Council Diversity Committee. The Bronze level recognition demonstrates institutions have established baseline support for groups underrepresented in engineering while also analyzing their policies, culture and climate related to all underrepresented groups. The recognition also shows institutions are strengthening the K-12 or community college pipeline and developing a diversity and inclusion action plan focused on continuous improvement.
Cal Poly’s College of Engineering features many initiatives to encourage inclusivity and diversity, including:
• Organizations, such as the Multicultural Engineering Program and the Women’s Engineering Program, which build communities and provide the necessary support for students’ academic, personal and professional success. • Clubs with specific underrepresented student missions, such as Women Involved in Software and Hardware, Color Coded, the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, the Society of Women Engineers and the National Society of Black Engineers, which help students connect with peers while providing alumnae, faculty and industry representatives as role models and supporters.
• Pipeline programs to recruit future underrepresented students, including Engineering Possibilities in College (EPIC), a summer camp designed to get middle and high school students interested in engineering, and Cal Poly ENGAGE, a pipeline scholarship program targeting regional community colleges.
• The Cal Poly Scholars program, which seeks to recruit and retain high-achieving, low-income students from California high schools while providing financial, academic and community support.
While most of the college’s diversity efforts are still relatively new, the college notes that the percentage of female students has more than doubled since 2006 (13.3 percent of new students were women in 2006, compared to 26.3 percent in 2018.) The overall percentage of students belonging to an underrepresented group is increasing, driven primarily by growth in students who identify as Latinx. From 2013 to 2018, the total percentage of federally underrepresented students increased from 16 percent to 18 percent. In 2018, 50 percent of students in the college identified as white (down from 54 percent in 2013.) Another 32 percent of the students identified as Asian or multi-racial.