Thursday, November 19, 2009


I loved this article. It really captures a lot of the reasons why I am interested in Engineering Education. I believe very strongly in engineering as a tool for social change, both in terms of using engineering to improve peoples' lives, the environment, etc. and encouraging a more diverse community of engineers as a means of individual empowerment. I am, however, stuck on two things.
I have been thinking about issues of social justice for a long time, and always come back to the following problem. What is the best way for me to be an agent of change given that I am empowered, i.e. I am white, male, middle-class, and heterosexual. I am aware of the issues that I am trying to deal with in my classroom or employment, but do I have the legitimacy to help others learn how to deal with these issues themselves?
I also wonder how does one get old-school, traditional (sorry, Alice!) engineering departments to start thinking along these lines. As Dr. Riley mentioned at the beginning of her article, Smith is unique in offering the first engineering program at a women's college. One could potentially see a similar approach at a historically black college or university. But my mechanical engineering professors here at Purdue? It almost makes me laugh (or cry) to think about the likelihood. I think that we are just getting to the point where engineers are starting to acknowledge the value of diversity in engineering and not just see it as an additional, unwelcome constraint.
Finally, as long as academic promotion is primarily based on publications produced and research money brought in, there is very little incentive for new or exisiting faculty to really focus on their teaching. To affect real change in engineering pedagogy, a stronger focus needs to be placed on teaching ability and the value of improving teaching methods.
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