Texas Tech University

Mechanical Engineering Team Chosen for Initiative on Inclusion and Diversity

George Watson

May 6, 2015

The faculty team will collaborate on projects designed to address the experiences of underrepresented faculty, staff and students while initializing change.

A faculty team from Texas Tech University's Department of Mechanical Engineering has been chosen for the Transforming Engineering Culture to Advance Inclusion and Diversity (TECAID) project.

Texas Tech was selected for the program along with teams from Michigan Technological University, Oregon State University, Purdue University and the University of Oklahoma. A joint project of the Women in Engineering ProActive Network (WEPAN), the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) and Purdue, TECAID is designed to advance understanding and the experiences of faculty, staff and students who have been underrepresented in the past. It also aims to study the impact of stereotypes and the process of change-planning and goal-setting in an academic environment.

The Texas Tech team consists of mechanical engineering professors Ed Anderson, Gordon Christopher, Jharna Chaudhuri, Michelle Pantoya, Jenny Qiu and James Yang; Audra Morse, the associate dean for undergraduate studies in the Whitacre College of Engineering; and Charlotte Durham, an associate professor in the Department of Women's Studies.

Chaudhuri, the chairwoman of the Department of Mechanical Engineering, said Whitacre College of Engineering dean Al Sacco Jr., President M. Duane Nellis and Provost Lawrence Schovanec have been vital in their support of the department.

“The department feels very proud to be included in this national initiative,” Chaudhuri said. “The department has made a concerted effort in the past few years to increase the representation of women in the faculty with the hiring of three female assistant professors out of nine total hires. This focus on increasing the number of women in the faculty ranks is a start in the effort to increase the overall participation of all traditionally underrepresented groups in engineering.”

TECAID, supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation's (NSF) Broadening Participating in Engineering program, will support the work of mechanical engineering departments committed to change through research and faculty efforts to promote diversity and inclusion through practices within the department. It will provide professional development, consultation and a virtual learning community for participating departments and leaders.

“In order to compete and succeed in the global economy, countries must better engage the engineering and scientific talent of diverse populations,” said Thomas Perry, director of engineering education for ASME. “Today, many thousands of gifted individuals, most notably women and underrepresented minorities, remain a disproportionally small fraction of those in engineering careers while at the same time the opportunities and rewards of an engineering career have never been better.”

WEPAN was founded in 1990 as a nonprofit educational organization leading the charge through research and practices to advance the inclusion of women in engineering, both in higher education and in the work place. It is the primary grant recipient from the NSF.

“To continue our effort in this area and capitalize on our recent gains, we would like to focus on increasing the retention rate of women within engineering and in particular within the undergraduate mechanical engineering program,” Chaudhuri said. “As a faculty, we have noted a significant issue in the smaller retention rates of women mechanical engineering students as compared to their male counterparts and believe working on this problem offers a unique and useful way to increase diversity within the department, and as a possible model to expand to other universities.”

For more information on the TECAID project, go to its website.