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Engineering Fundamentals

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The United States is becoming increasingly more diverse. Specifically, demographics are shifting because of growth among historically underrepresented racial and ethnic minorities, including African Americans, Latinos, and Native Americans. At the same time, a declining number of skilled workers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields threatens U.S. global competitiveness and national security. Low participation, representation, engagement, and inclusion continue to reduce the intellectual capacity of the U.S. STEM workforce. The aforementioned societal changes require diversity in STEM education and the nation at large. Past research offers additional support for the importance of diversity. For example, racial diversity can improve educational outcomes such as complex thinking among students in college (Antonio et al., 2004). In STEM fields such as engineering, encouraging contact among undergraduate students from different economic, social, or racial and ethnic backgrounds can produce greater perceived learning gains (Strayhorn, Long, Williams, Dorimé-Williams, & Tillman-Kelly, 2014).

Despite the societal and educational benefits of diversity, U.S. engineering and related STEM fields are dominated by persons whose background is White, male, English speaking, and middle class (National Academy of Engineering and National Research Council, 2009). Underrepresented populations’ limited access to engineering and related STEM fields has a historical context, a history predating landmark court decisions such as Brown vs. Board of Education that sought to provide equal educational opportunities to all racial/ethnic groups. The educational crisis for underrepresented minorities must be solved not only through encouragement and engagement of students but also through policy and practice in institutions. We believe that a new conversation about diversity needs to begin, a conversation examining policies and actions that pose unnecessary institutional barriers for underrepresented minority students in STEM fields such as engineering.

Publication Title

Journal of Engineering



The Institution of Engineering and Technology

Required Publisher’s Statement

This is the pre-peer reviewed version of the following article: Long, L.L., III and Mejia, J.A. (2016), Conversations about Diversity: Institutional Barriers for Underrepresented Engineering Students. J. Eng. Educ., 105: 211-218. doi:10.1002/jee.20114, which has been published in final form at doi:10.1002/jee.20114. This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Wiley Terms and Conditions for Use of Self-Archived Versions.