The Watson College of Engineering and Applied Sciences has received the Bronze-level award for diversity, equity and inclusion from the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE).

The Bronze level, the highest level that was awarded by the ASEE this year, recognizes a university’s excellence in inclusiveness among engineering programs. Elizabeth Kradjian, assistant dean for strategy and external affairs in Watson College, said the college being recognized with the award has been an honor given the initiatives they have taken.

“[Watson College] is absolutely delighted to receive this recognition,” Kradjian wrote in an email. “We could not have made progress in the area of diversity and inclusion if not for our faculty, staff, students, alumni and friends who support our efforts — a strategic priority for [the college].”

Kradjian discussed the numerous diversity requirements Watson College needed to meet in order to receive the award. The ASEE requires colleges to support minority representation in their engineering programs through various programs and initiatives. Additional requirements include analyzing the school’s policies and climate regarding diversity and strengthening the process of admitting students of various backgrounds from high schools and community colleges. They also ask colleges to continue the backing of such policies and programs.

According to Kradjian, Watson College has made various efforts to receive the Bronze-level recognition, including being the first university unit to have a chief diversity officer role, funneling state and federal funding toward student support and community outreach and receiving additional funds for Watson College’s “Bridge to the Doctorate” program, which provides financial support and mentorship to students pursuing doctoral degrees.

An additional new position was implemented in Watson College: assistant dean for academic diversity and inclusive excellence. The position is currently held by Monica Guient, whose main role is to ensure that the Division of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion holds a prominent presence in Watson College.

“A Watson College Committee on Academic Diversity and Inclusive Excellence composed of faculty and staff was started in 2019,” Kradjian wrote. “[Our] student organizations continue to flourish, from Society of Women Engineers (SWE) to National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) and Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE) to Girls Who Code.”

Watson’s future plans for increased diversity include the creation of new scholarships and more programs that will further emphasize increased inclusiveness in engineering programs, according to Kradjian. She cited the Watson College Scholars Program and the Diversifying Coding Program (D-Coding) initiatives that work to provide students with the opportunity to connect with those involved in engineering and encourage involvement in the field of computer science and engineering while providing financial support.

“Although…some may say [we] ‘have a long way to go,’ to receive such a recognition is a true honor,” Kradjian said. “We are hopeful that other planned initiatives, including the Watson College Scholars Program and the [D-Coding Program], will assist us as we continue to strive to do better. We are also diligently pursuing the funding of new scholarships for diverse students and support for Watson College student organizations.”

Staff training aimed at continuing the promotion of diversity at Watson College continues, as Kradjian referenced training opportunities provided to the faculty with the help of Karen Jones, vice president of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). Additionally, Kradjian said that a diversity leadership speaker series will likely happen in the fall.

Jake Ritchie, a freshman majoring in engineering, was pleased with the award, as he described the need to bring quality engineering education to students of all backgrounds.

“I think it is really special that [Watson College has] such a diverse engineering program,” Ritchie said. “I believe it is very important for our department to look inward and make sure they are doing everything they can to offer as many different types of people the best education they can receive.”

Logan Jeffers, a freshman majoring in engineering, said while the school’s diversity is not always immediately noticeable, the award highlights it for the students to realize.

“Although we don’t really notice how diverse our campus is in [our daily life], it’s things like [this award] that really call attention to that fact and remind us that as a school and community, our student body is setting an example not only for academia as a whole but the industry too,” Jeffers said. “I think it’s something we’ll be able to brag about when we are asked to describe the school we attend.”