Sharing Admissions Practices That Promote Diversity in Engineering

Project Status
February 23, 2024
National Science Foundation
Final Report
Sharing Exemplary Admissions Practices That Promote Diversity in Engineering
Authoring InstitutionProgram Office; National Academy of Engineering; National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine
Publication DateNovember 10, 2023

All students should have the opportunity to study engineering, but despite long-standing calls to increase the numbers of women, African-Americans, American Indians/Alaska Natives, Hispanics of any race, students from low-income families, and other underrepresented groups in undergraduate engineering education, most students are white or Asian men from upper middle-class families. Some institutions have become better at predicting student success in engineering majors based on high school performance or personal traits such as leadership skills or creativity, enabling students who would not normally be admitted to engineering programs to not only enroll but succeed. This project recognizes and promotes these effective practices and develops ideas for future research about ways to measure success in engineering education and to improve the system so that students from all backgrounds become interested in and enroll in engineering education. When students from varied backgrounds engage in engineering education, all students benefit from a variety of perspectives on design challenges, think more about others and about ethics and social justice issues of their engineering work, and participate in teams that look like those they will encounter in the workforce. As these students graduate and enter society and the workforce, they will be more likely to produce innovative solutions to global problems that improve the quality of life for all citizens.

Because the critical task of diversifying the US engineering workforce requires action and interventions throughout the engineering education and workforce system, especially at important transition points such as university admissions, the NAE is engaging engineering deans and faculty, admissions staff, and researchers in relevant areas in a collaborative process that highlights and encourages the diffusion of effective admissions practices that improve diversity in engineering education. This 24-month project will (1) provide national recognition to institutions that are effectively diversifying engineering education using admissions policies, (2) provide guidance to institutions that are developing or researching admissions policies to advance diversity but have not yet met with success, and (3) define directions for future research on both best practices in engineering admissions criteria, metrics, and policies and how those practices fit into the larger system of recruiting and retaining engineering students from all backgrounds. The NAE will host a workshop where information, expertise, mentoring, and facilitated discussions and collaboration help attendees advance their work and develop effective plans for their own institutions. The workshop attendees will then form the basis for a cohort of leaders and agents of change across the US. In addition, broad dissemination of both the workshop session videos and the written summary of the workshop discussion will enable deans, administrators, and others who did not attend the workshop to learn from the presentations and discussions. Ultimately, the project will improve the way engineering schools evaluate the potential success of and accept applicants from all backgrounds and will disseminate best practices to support institutions as they diversify their engineering programs, which will benefit current and future engineers as well as the broader workforce.