CREATING A MODULE TO EMPOWER ENGINEERING STUDENTS TO BECOME CHAMPIONS FOR EQUALITY, DIVERSITY, AND INCLUSION
Editor: Buck, Lyndon; Grierson, Hilary; Bohemia, Erik
Author: Ojha, Pallavi; Sun, Angela; Raja, Asad; Varley, Julie; Agg, Chloe; Stringer, Linda
Institution: Imperial College London, United Kingdom
Section: Responsible innovation in design and engineering education
DOI number: 10.35199/EPDE.2023.43
The state of equality, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) in the engineering industry is troubling. The UK has the lowest proportion of female engineers in Europe at just 8%. The Royal Academy of Engineering reports that although 26% of engineering students identify as BAME, only 6% of professional engineers are non-white. This paper will detail the creation of a module in the Mechanical Engineering course at Imperial College, designed to systemically improve EDI in the engineering industry by empowering students taking the module to become champions for EDI. Galvanised by the 2020 Black Lives Matter protests, a group of students from the Mechanical Engineering Department at Imperial College wrote an open letter in their university’s newspaper inviting their department to adopt several specific EDI-improvement measures. The ensuing discourse between staff and students led three students to propose a summer research project, with the goal of designing an elective module focused entirely on EDI in engineering for undergraduate students taking the course. While UK chartership competencies specifically require engineers to understand diversity and equality issues, many students, including those who designed the module, felt the industry lacked sufficient understanding of EDI and dialogue surrounding these issues. Therefore, this module aimed to fill this gap in engineering education and empower students to affect change as graduates in the engineering sector. The initial module design was developed through liaising with academics with relevant experience in EDI, outreach charities and relevant teams within Imperial. The aims of the module were to encourage students to think in the context of global society, develop an appreciation for EDI issues, and gain practical experience in initiative coordination to improve EDI in engineering. Students would be introduced to the key issues related to EDI through seminars delivered primarily by expert guest lecturers in the autumn term, and in the spring term, use their knowledge to design an initiative to improve an identified EDI issue within a chosen workplace or institution. Students would also keep a logbook, recording their learning using reflective practice. The module was designed to be completely coursework based. The student project laid the groundwork and justification for such a module to be added to the curriculum. The implementation of the module into the curriculum required a few modifications to the initial proposal for logistical, financial, and pedagogical reasons, including removing the requirement for students taking the module to action the initiatives they design, ensuring grades were not dependent on external parties. Although several other departments and institutions have created modules attempting to address EDI issues through societal engagement, this module’s concerted focus on empowering students to become EDI champions in engineering makes it one of the first of its kind offered as part of an engineering degree in the UK. By detailing the process of creating this module at this conference, we hope to inspire and serve as a springboard for the creation of similar modules in other university engineering courses.