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#1 US Engineering School Embraces Diversity Education: Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology

I had the opportunity to present a diversity education session, Race, Power & Privilege, at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology. Rose-Hulman is a beautiful 1,300-acre campus tucked away in Terre Haute, Indiana. It serves approximately 2,000 highly selected students each year, and for 21 consecutive years, Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology has ranked as the #1 engineering college in the United States by the U.S. News & World Report 2020 Best Colleges Guide.

I relished this opportunity to teach concepts of diversity, equity, and inclusion to the “best and brightest” in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). As STEM becomes increasingly important in our ability to inform public policy, ensure national security, dissolve critical health disparities, and to compete in the global economy, the need for diversity shifts become increasingly more critical each day. In addition to ensuring full inclusion of women, persons with disabilities, and underrepresented minorities into STEM fields, it is vitally important to cultivate talent, creativity, and innovative methodologies and thought processes, which can only occur as a result of the full inclusion of those less represented.

The need for diversity shifts become increasingly more critical each day.

At the conclusion of the sessions, several students and faculty members lingered to chat. Some participants shared personal “a-ha’s” that illuminated during the session, some shared points of validation, and others left with simply a new paradigm for thinking about diversity in a different way.

Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology is a highly regarded institution. It has a long-standing reputation and has earned the merit of being the best in the country. Truthfully, Rose-Hulman can easily choose to not make any changes and continue to do the great job it has done for decades producing top STEM professionals. However, Rose-Hulman seems to value the importance of diversity education and working to implement processes and procedures that will yield to establishing cultures of belonging for all faculty, staff, and students. How can other top-tier institutions follow the lead of Rose-Hulman? Institutions must be:

  • Courageous enough to initiate diversity conversations amongst its faculty, staff, and students
  • Creative in implementing inclusive classroom practices to ensure academic success all students
  • Committed to establishing the necessary culture shifts on campus
  • Candid and honest as they navigate the process

These changes are not easy; therefore, organizations may require several layers of support and employ the guidance of experts to create the change necessary to experience the inclusive culture they aspire towards. The level of commitment of faculty, staff, and students exhibited to attend a non-mandatory diversity session – during exam week, I might add! Cultural Connection by Design, LLC approach to diversity education centers about the understanding of power, privilege, and more importantly, one’s responsibility in dismantling systems of oppression. I may never know how much this session at Rose-Hulman Institution of Technology will influence our broader society as these future scientists, technology specialists, engineers, and mathematicians go and create change in the world through their work. I can only hope these future STEM professionals will embrace their work utilizing a lens of critical consciousness. They will be able to recognize and analyze systems of inequality the perpetuate STEM professions and be committed to take action in dismantling such systems using their personal points of power and privilege.