Active diversity interaction: making choices



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This paper describes a program designed to encourage interaction between minority and majority student groups in engineering. Multicultural engineering advocates at Kansas State University, a predominantly white institution, developed a program designed to increase communication and interaction between multicultural engineering students and the general engineering student population. This program, Making Choices, was presented to Introduction to Engineering classes within different engineering disciplines to encourage students to engage in active diversity interaction. We defined active diversity interaction as seeking out opportunities and choosing to interact with students outside the groups in which they normally networked. During the activity, students interacted and discussed (1) underrepresented populations in engineering, (2) the need for diversity in engineering, (3) interaction opportunities, and (4) the benefits of diversity to all students. The presenters described research that has shown advantages gained from choosing diversity interactions in an academic setting, including physical and psychological health, cognitive growth, improved information transfer, and higher academic achievement. After the discussion, the students created graphs of the number of weekly interactions they had with persons of representative groups in the College of Engineering. For most students the graphs were curved showing that they had large numbers of interactions with just a few groups and small numbers of interactions with other groups. However, in the ideal engineering environment, the line should be nearly flat, showing similar numbers of interactions with all groups. A survey after the activity measured the affective responses of the students to the activity. Results of the survey indicated students tended to agree more with affective responses in the Organization category of Krathwohl’s Affective Domain than with those in the Valuing category. We concluded that many students incorporated diversity interaction into their value systems but were unwilling to self-initiate diversity interactions. We believe this indicates a need for diversity interactions to be included in the engineering curricula in order to provide the benefits that researchers have attributed to interaction between diverse groups, including improved cognitive growth and academic achievement.



Multicultural engineering, Diversity, Engineering students, Kansas State University, Multicultural Engineering Program, Making Choices Program