Dringenberg’s NSF CAREER Award addresses engineering inclusivity

Posted: February 17, 2020

Emily Dringenberg, assistant professor in the Department of Engineering Education, has received a five-year, $597,139 Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) award from the National Science Foundation for her research on beliefs about gender- and race-based minoritization in engineering.

Emily Dringenberg, center, discusses her research with several PhD students
Researcher Emily Dringenberg, center, has earned an NSF CAREER award for her work on addressing engineering inclusivity.

The CAREER award is the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) most prestigious award in support of junior faculty who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through outstanding research, excellent education and the integration of both.

Dringenberg’s project, “Surfacing deeply-held beliefs about gender- and race-based minoritization in engineering” aims to help broaden participation in a field where women and people of color remain systemically excluded. This problem is due, in part, to the deeply-held beliefs that people in positions of power hold about race and gender. However, said Dringenberg, these beliefs often remain outside of a person’s conscious awareness.

Using a series of in-depth, semi-structured interviews, Dringenberg will analyze the beliefs that engineering educators hold about why minoritization of women and people of color endures in the field, how they justify their beliefs, and characterize the experiences that they recognize as key to their evolution.

“These research contributions will directly inform the design of meaningful opportunities for other engineering educators or members of society as a whole to surface and critically reflect on their deeply-held beliefs in order to evolve towards more inclusive conduct,” said Dringenberg.

Prior work on broadening participation in engineering has primarily focused on understanding underrepresented minority students and their experiences from a deficit perspective. Dringenberg’s project takes a complementary approach by focusing on engineering faculty, staff and administrators who identify as members of a race or gender-based majority (e.g., White and/or male) and are viewed as proponents of diversity and inclusion by a member of a minoritized group.

Because the vast majority of engineering faculty and administrators belong to a majority group, efforts to broaden participation must enable their development as inclusive educators, said Dringenberg.

“Their decisions shape the design and implementation of undergraduate engineering education programs, and they really have the systemic power to shift engineering culture more widely,” she explained.

Dringenberg joined The Ohio State University as an assistant professor in 2017. She earned her bachelor’s in mechanical engineering from Kansas State University in 2008, her master’s in industrial engineering from Purdue University in 2014 and her PhD in engineering education from Purdue in 2015. Utilizing two previous NSF grants, her team is studying the beliefs that engineering students hold about intelligence as well as decision making. Her research has an overarching goal of leveraging engineering education research to shift the culture of engineering to be more realistic and inclusive.

by Meggie Biss, College of Engineering Communications | biss.11@osu.edu