Reports from Working Group Discussions

Facilitator: Sheryl Burgstahler, Director, DO-IT and AccessSTEM

CBI participants represented a wide range of stakeholder groups, including postsecondary faculty, staff members from across the university, and engineering students. They came together to share information about changes that have occurred at the UW as a result of PEERs and to plan future activities. Their discussions are summarized below.

Discussion Question: What has changed over the past four years related to diversity at the UW? What is the evidence of these changes? What contributions/legacy has PEERs made to the diversity conversation and climate at the UW and within the UW College of Engineering?

During this discussion, participants shared changes that they have observed or perceived at the UW over the past four years:

  • Increased visibility of the importance of diversity in education and student leadership related to diversity, as evidenced by the new diversity requirement.
  • More discussions about diversity across campus, as evidenced by the College of Environment "Conversations on Defining Diversity" and students' articulation about appreciating diverse perspectives when working in groups.
  • An integration of diversity into the culture of the College of Engineering, as evidenced by programs like the new NSF-funded Red Shirt Program that addresses pipeline issues through a five-year bachelor's program for low-income Washington state high school graduates (See uw.edu/news/2013/05/08/new-academic-redshirt-program-to-support-undergraduate-stem-education for more information).
  • Increased diversity in specific programs, including the professional master's program in computer science and engineering.
  • New hires in faculty, resulting in a generational shift and an improved campus climate with increased diversity.
  • Faculty helping students benefit from diversity on teams in project-based and capstone courses.
  • Faculty and chairs are more likely to reach out for help to resolve issues, especially as students demand a greater education about diversity through the diversity requirement.
  • New programs and classes related to diversity have been developed, including the Disability Studies minor, the American Indian Studies Department, the American Sign Language minor, the Queer Studies minor, the PEERs Seminar, a course for female pre-majors in Computer Science and Engineering (CSE), and the Disability 101 Seminar.
  • Expanded and new networks on campus among organizations like PEERs; Office of Minority Affairs and Diversity (OMAD); DO-IT; the Diversity Council; Women Investigating Race, Ethnicity, and Difference (WIRED); the TRiO Student Support Services First Quarter Seminar; NSF Scholarships in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (S-STEM) Grant; Upward Bound Math and Science; NSF Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Talent Expansion Program (STEP); Minority Science Engineering Achievement (MESA) Community College Programs; Diversity Steering Committee in the Department of Psychology; and affinity groups, which resulted in both collaborative grant funding and collaboration in planning the 2012 Society for the Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS) meeting.
  • A systemic approach to diversity, as evidenced by the adoption of the Diversity Blueprint and the campus climate survey.
  • An increased appreciation among faculty, as evidenced by changes to the Faculty Code to recognize the intellectual value of diversity and inclusion.
  • New spaces for student support through the renovations to the Husky Union Building (HUB) and the Ethnic Cultural Center, the creation of the new D Center and the Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (LSAMP) center, the move of the Disability Resources for Students to a more centralized location in Mary Gates Hall, and a greater awareness of accessibility in design of new spaces.
  • Increased access for students with disabilities and an increased interest in including disability among diversity issues as evidenced by increased requests for presentations from DO-IT, increased interest in accessible design of information technology (IT) through the Access Technology Lab, and a high-level task force and advisory group focused on accessible IT.
  • Greater efforts to recruit underrepresented groups.
  • Diversity efforts happening both from the top down, such as the Diversity Blueprint that creates a strategic plan, and from the bottom up, as students advocate for things like the new diversity requirement.

Discussion Question: What are the next steps to keep moving forward in creating a welcoming and equitable campus?

During this discussion, participants brainstormed possible actions for continuing to increase diversity at UW. Their suggestions included:

  • Make classrooms more usable for group work. Include Classroom Support Services and students with disabilities in classroom design and renovation.
  • Increase awareness among faculty and teaching assistants about diversity issues through workshops or learning communities. Ensure campus leaders encourage participation in these trainings so the message reaches a broader audience. Encourage deans to discuss diversity at department chairs' annual reviews.
  • Explore how some departments have made great progress with respect to diversity while others have struggled to make change and promote successful practices.
  • Increase students' awareness of diversity issues through freshman seminars on diversity and engage younger students through presentations to K-12 classrooms.
  • Institutionalize successful diversity programs.
  • Consider adopting the PEERs model or a similar class focused on diversity in other colleges across campus. Request state funding to ensure that classes taught as part of grants such as the PEERs seminar and Disability 101 continue to be taught and can satisfy the new diversity requirement.
  • Develop a Freshman Interest Group about diversity to ensure that students are exposed early in the pipeline and to help create a community for students early on in their university education.
  • Continue conversations between various diversity groups to ensure collaboration and cross-pollination. Better coordination between organizations may help students to achieve their goals.
  • Ensure that the campus conversation about diversity deals with the multiple dimensions of diversity and brings visibility to less common aspects of diversity, such as disability and LGBTQ issues.
  • Ensure that data related to diversity is available—including data about disability and about faculty and staff.
  • Increase research opportunities available to students to expose them to mentors and to spark their interest in a field.
  • Address issues related to the increased population of international students on campus. Determine how to support and serve these students. Increase the conversation with other underrepresented groups, such as students with disabilities and LGBTQ students.
  • Expand the diversity requirement so that all students—including graduate and professional students in fields that serve the community such as law and education, not just undergraduates—are required to take a class related to diversity.
  • Ensure that upper administration is encouraging faculty and staff to be involved with programs for undergraduates.
  • Make sure programs that work with underrepresented groups work together to ensure that they are inclusive of students in their program who are also members of other underrepresented groups. For example, a group that works with female students should make efforts to be welcoming and accessible to female students with disabilities, perhaps with assistance from DO-IT.
  • Create more visibility around diversity activities on campus to ensure awareness within the diversity community and beyond.