Jessica Boakye, a lecturer in the Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE) Department, is one of Ten UMass Amherst Faculty Selected as 2021-22 TIDE Ambassadors by the UMass Center for Teaching and Learning. As she says, “I haven’t selected a project yet, but I want to design something that can be integrated into [a course in] Structural Analysis, which I will be teaching.”
Throughout the program year, TIDE participants will explore how they can enhance students’ learning and academic success across cultural, social, and learning differences by adopting a strength-based, inclusive, and equitable approach to teaching and learning grounded in the value of diversity.
“I would like to become a TIDE ambassador,” says Boakye, “to learn more about incorporating diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) into the engineering curriculum.”
Boakye adds that “As a new faculty member and teacher, I believe learning how to better facilitate DEI considerations in the classroom will make me a better educator. Additionally, I will be connected to a diverse set of educators from across campus with different experience levels who will undoubtably enhance my teaching knowledge.”
Boakye points out that recent events such as the Flint water crisis, the film Coded Bias (about facial recognition technology that cannot detect dark-skinned faces), and the book Invisible Women (reporting on data bias in a world designed for men) illustrate the far-reaching consequences of DEI being neglected in engineering applications and policy decisions.
As Boakye says, “CEE students who will be responsible for supporting and making these decisions in their careers should be able to analyze engineering problems through a DEI lens.”
Boakye will teach two courses during her TIDE fellowship year: CE-ENGIN 597RA Risk Analysis and CE-ENGIN 331 Structural Analysis. Risk Analysis is a graduate elective course open to upperclassmen, while Structural Analysis is a required undergraduate course.
One DEI activity championed by Boakye was serving as a member of the CEE DEI committee. “As part of that role,” she says, “I have also participated in DEI meetings with the entire college of engineering. These meetings are facilitated by [College of Engineering Assistant Dean for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion] Dr. Paula Rees.”
Another activity led by Rees was a course in ENGIN 597E Equity and Inclusion in Engineering Education, which Boakye participated in and which provided readings and facilitated discussion around DEI issues within the engineering curriculum. The class had a diverse set of participants, including engineering faculty, undergraduate students, graduate students, postdocs, lecturers, and staff.
In addition, says Boakye, “I had some experience as a Support for Under-Represented Groups in Engineering (SURGE) Fellow at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign prior to joining UMass. As a SURGE Fellow, I served as a graduate student panelist for perspective students from underrepresented groups and conducted student interviews for prospective staff hires for college-wide DEI positions.”
Boakye has two “questions/challenges” that she would like to explore as part of her TIDE fellowship.
“First,” she explains, “I would like to learn more about incorporating DEI considerations into required engineering courses such as Structural Analysis, which I will teach for the Fall 2022 semester. The content in these courses is pre-defined, and I would like to gain some insight as to how others have integrated DEI into courses where DEI has not traditionally been included.”
Second, says Boakye, “I would like to learn how to engage students who are not as interested in DEI…I acknowledge that there are some individuals who believe that DEI considerations are outside the scope of engineering and should be handled only from a human-resource or social-science perspective. I hope that I learn some techniques to engage everyone in the classroom regardless of possible preconceived notions.” (April 2021)