CDEI leadership’s call to ASEE members to join the work of disrupting racism

Dear ASEE Colleagues –

Although I’ve not been contacted directly, I have heard second-hand that many ASEE members were disappointed or dissatisfied with the ASEE Board statement last week regarding the emotional, national discourse about the unjust deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and so many other Black lives. After reading the letter a few more times, I see that the Board offered a message of unity to us and our colleagues—A message that reminds us of the beliefs that we have in common and the core values of our organization. Many of the responses that I’ve heard of or seen have asked pointedly: What action is ASEE taking? What are ‘YOU’ (ASEE vaguely) doing to disrupt racism? What are ‘you’ doing about X, Y, or Z locus of inequity?

I want to turn those questions back to ASEE members, especially my white colleagues—What are YOU doing? The American Society of Engineering Education is a non-profit, support organization for a community of people who believe that engineering and engineering education are important to civilization. Yes, ASEE has a headquarters staff of full- and part-time employees. They provide the continuity for financial health and of community-building & coordinating activities. Everyone else is a volunteer – someone with a different full-time job, family- and self-care responsibilities, hobbies, and their own individual advocacy work in their organizations and communities.

We live in a country built on a foundation of colonialism and oppression. Even in its internal fights for freedoms, those privileges were not extended to all people without additional battles. At national and local levels, our systems, institutions, and policies maintain many of the early inequities. There is always MORE to be done to eliminate racism, sexism, ableism, …. It is important work. It will TAKE ALL OF US WORKING TOGETHER.

Thus, I remind you that ASEE is you; it is me; it is us. For ASEE to “do something,” WE must do something.

ASEE Board formed a task-force on diversity in 2009; the scope of the charge for the task-force grew and it became a standing Board Committee and now a Commission. Much has been done in that time thanks to supportive empowering ASEE Presidents, (Louis Martin-Vega, Bevlee Watford, Stephanie Farrell, Stephanie Adams, and so many before them). As of last September, 270 ASEE members had expressed interest in work of the ASEE Commission on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion; only about 30-40 participate in doing the Commission’s work. 

Below, you will find a letter from me and other leaders of CDEI, who have compiled suggestions for actions for YOU based on where you are in your allyship and anti-racist work. A list of programs and opportunities of CDEI, HQ, and the Engineering Dean’s Council where you can learn, contribute, or lead is also provided. It is not an exhaustive list; in particular, it does not include many items that Divisions and Sections are doing. It was compiled to focus more on ASEE-wide anti-racist programming; there are other opportunities addressing other systemic inequities. If there is another area that is important to you, we ask that you raise that issue, seek information on what is being done or needs doing, and lead a group to DO THE WORK.

ASEE can only change the status quo if each of us commits to begin and sustain action. As a starting point, I suggest you read the “ASEE-SEFI Joint Statement on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion: A Call and Pledge to Action,” approved in March and released April 27. Then review the list below, find an opportunity appropriate for your personal development or point-of-action, or propose, create, and commit to a new one.

As a Commission, we will continue to advocate and act for positive change and sustained action addressing the inequities we see in ASEE, in engineering education, and in our local, national, and international communities. We call on the Board to listen to members, to examine ASEE’s organizational policies, practices, and processes, to implement a climate survey, and to work with us as we collectively address these issues. 


In solidarity and on behalf of the CDEI Chair team,

Susan E. Walden, Ph.D., ASEE Fellow

Chair, ASEE Commission on Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion

Download the PDF Letter

Download this page as a PDF with hyperlinked resources.

Opportunities & Actions for ASEE Members to Begin or Continue Anti-Racist Work in Engineering Education

As Chairs of the ASEE Commission on Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion (CDEI), we have become aware of several ASEE members asking about actions that ASEE is taking to respond to systemic oppression in engineering education. We affirm that Black Lives Matter. CDEI and other Society-supporting constituents are engaged in many actions to effect change and build an environment where all can thrive, especially engineers from minoritized and oppressed racial/ethnic groups. We invite you to take part.

Our work is long-term and organized around a strategic plan. Our commitment to this work continues and we all must do more. We are grateful to leaders like Bev Watford who played a significant role in starting the Commission, Norman Fortenberry whose leadership kept the Society financially alive/healthy in spite of the significant challenges of balancing various stakeholder needs, and Stephanie Adams who is a strong advocate for engineering educators, especially graduate students.  

ASEE provides opportunities for engineering education practitioners and educators to grow and develop. As engineers, we recognize that education and our participation in it are part of an improvable design process.  When confronted with failure, we learn and improve, seeking guidance from existing material that reflects personal experience and theoretical expertise. We can and will support our Black colleagues and students while building our own skills and knowledge to support diversity, equity, and inclusion. For many of us, anti-racist work should start with listening and bearing witness, rather than diving into a solution for a problem that we don’t fully understand.

We acknowledge and recognize that there are many ASEE members already actively involved in local action through protests in the streets and online, supporting Black colleagues, providing resources to white colleagues, reflecting on their own privilege, and having difficult conversations with people in their personal networks.

Here’s how you can be a part of the work

Join CDEI as a Friend or Delegate and participate in the work of the Commission.

Find conference sessions outside of your own division to learn more; search for the MIND division and CDEI sessions and attend.

Implement what you learn locally.

Read our newsletter to learn about opportunities to be involved.

Attend the CDEI Annual Business Meeting, Saturday, June 20, 3:30-5:00 pm ET.  Sign up to get the link. 

Use the resources and opportunities below to get started.

Learn more through ASEE, CDEI, and other organizations’ available professional development opportunities.

Attend the inaugural business meeting for the new ASEE Constituent Committee (provisional division) on Equity, Culture, and Social Justice in Education (ECSE) on Friday, June 26.

Be an accomplice, an advocate, and an ally. Again, this may start with listening rather than trying to solve the problem.

Commit to regular, sustained action to make a difference.

We know there are many other ways to be a part of the work. Add to the list using #ASEEIncludes and #EngineersShowUp

Here are some of the things that ASEE is doing to highlight best practices and support learning

Hover over or click each box below for more specific highlights.

Facilitating Conversations

  1. CDEI Roundtable at conference (CDEI)
  2. HQ Roundtables at conference (HQ)
  3. Virtual Workshops that allow small group interaction related to DEI topics

Recognizing excellent work toward equity and inclusion

Highlighting scholarship across divisions and recognizing it with the Best DEI paper award (CDEI)

Highlighting actions to address equity and inclusion across the society through our new CDEI Constituent award (CDEI)

Holding deans accountable for their commitments in the Dean’s Diversity Initiative through the Engineering Dean’s Council Diversity Committee work

The ASEE Dean’s Diversity Recognition Program has as its goal the collective achievement of significant, measurable progress in increasing the diversity, inclusion, and degree attainment outcomes of engineering and engineering technology programs. This program holds deans responsible for committing to the achievements outlined in the Dean’s Diversity Initiative. 

The EDC Diversity Committee also works with EDC to develop professional development programming for deans during annual conferences, and is currently exploring more opportunities for education, discussion, and action in the coming months spurred by the Black Lives Matter events.

Building Community

LGBTQ+ and Allies Reception, June 19th, 6pm ET (CDEI). Register here: 

International partnerships (SEFI and ASEE Joint Statement)

Amplifying black engineers and their research

Panel of Black engineering educators providing a window into their existence in “Do You See Me?: Hypervisible Invisibility #EngineeringWhileBlack”, Tuesday, June 23, 2020, 2:30 ET

Conversation session at ASEE 2019 “CDEI Conversations: The Community’s Quest for Impact – a Discussion about the Role of Education Research in Actually Broadening Participation

Amplifying indigenous people in engineering

Amplifying indigenous people in engineering with Distinguished Lecture “Indigeneering: The Future Of Engineering Education” by Deanna Burgart Wednesday, June 24 2:00 pm ET

Amplifying engineers and their actions

#EngineersShowUp (CDEI)

LGBTQ+ Virtual Community of Practice, apply to join here.

Providing learning opportunities

HQ supported webinars (HQ)

Professional development workshops at the Annual Conference in 2019 and 2020

CDEI web Resources 

Summer Virtual Workshops (CDEI)

Supporting scholarship to empower dismantling racism

Journal of Engineering Education: for example:  1) Guest Editorial “From 2020 vision: Engineering education that honors the whole” by Linda Vanasupa; 2) Guest Editorial upcoming by Leroy Long, III, with specific recommendations and action items to support Black engineering students

Conference technical program from the Minorities in Engineering Division, though all division are encouraged to include this work

New ASEE Constituent Committee (provisional division) on Equity, Culture, and Social Justice in Education (ECSE)

Susan E. Walden, Ph.D., ASEE Fellow
Chair, ASEE Commission on Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion

Elizabeth Litzler, Ph.D.
Incoming Chair, ASEE Commission on Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion

Rebecca Bates, Ph.D.
Past Chair, ASEE Commission on Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion

Donna Riley, Ph.D., ASEE Fellow
Chair, Policy & Letters committee on ASEE Commission on Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion