Engineering classrooms can feel intimidating to many people, but Dr. Tammy VanDeGrift, Associate Dean and Associate professor in the Shiley School of Engineering, is aiming to make sure they are places where all students feel welcomed. She is working on a Dundon-Berchtoldt project about creating a more inclusive environment in engineering classrooms.
“The lack of diversity in the School of Engineering is something that we can say is an ethical issue. And this is our small look into the current climate into engineering in the Shiley school…I believe it’s about training the students. The students are the next generation of our working professionals. And if we can train them now to think about diversity, and acknowledge it, and to be inclusive of, and respect differing values and viewpoints, then I think the field will change, in a more of a grassroots kind of way
VanDeGrift has also launched wildly successful teaching events for engineering faculty that cover topics ranging from how to give effective feedback about writing assignments to Catholic principles and social justice how they relate to teaching and instruction. The next topic in her series is “Fixed vs Growth Mindset”.
From our Conversation
Dr. VanDeGrift: As part of my job as Associate Dean, I try to help faculty work on their professional development and teaching and learning. And one of the things that came out of just talking to faculty, probably 2 to 3 years ago, was that we spend so much time with our students on our courses independently, and not a lot of time talking to each other about some of the challenges we might be having, some of the questions we might have, some of the information that we do have and the materials that we do use could be useful for other people…
Maria Erb: I think it’s incredible that you got such a great response from your faculty, I know that your workshops are so well attended, often times 20 or even more. What do you think is behind this great response that you’re getting?
Dr. VanDeGrift: I do think that it’s because it was a need. We used to just have informal hallway conversations when things came up, and the people who really want to do it, they make a commitment to coming and I’m very happy to see them there and participate. I also enjoy hearing from my colleagues. I’ve learned so much from them. All I do is organize them, I lead a few of them, but really, they are a consensus community building kind of event, so we don’t, we have an agenda usually, but, we just let it, the conversation go where it needs to go.
Sam: What’s one that’s been pretty popular with the group, or is there one that kind of stands out?
Dr. VanDeGrift: I think, the one where we were overflowing the room, was how to make feedback for writing more effective for students. In engineering, it may be, I hope it’s not surprising that we do spend a lot of time helping our students learn how to communicate, and one of those forms of communication is how to write professionally, and concisely, especially in engineering.
Read the complete transcript of our conversation.
Listen to the podcast