2019 CoNECD - The Collaborative Network for Engineering and Computing Diversity

Engineering a New Reality: Using Virtual Reality to Cultivate Inclusive Mindsets Among Engineering Faculty

Presented at Track: Special Topic - Computing & Technology Technical Session 6

Keywords: Faculty, engineering, race/ethnicity, gender
Success with broadening participation requires the establishment of inclusive engineering cultures where people from underrepresented groups are made to recognize the value of their uniqueness while experiencing belongingness as an essential part of the community. While some scholars have urged the need to facilitate more opportunities for intergroup dialogue and interaction to circumvent the reinforcement of stereotypes of people from URGs, others have recognized realizing inclusive cultures in engineering to be limited by individual mindsets. Unfortunately, our thinking and actions around achieving inclusion have focused more on addressing students, their backgrounds and their perceptions of the climate rather than addressing how the faculty, culture, enduring injustices, institutional policies and structural inequalities come together to form environments that are impervious to navigate, particularly for those from URGs. One potentially transformative way of doing this is by shifting the mindsets of faculty to be more inclusive. The role of the faculty in shaping culture, specifically in engineering, is critical and yet, understudied.

Through faculty, this project seeks to broaden participation in a novel way by seeking to understand how we might cultivate inclusive cultures in the absence of critical masses of people traditionally underrepresented in engineering. Specifically, this work exposes faculty participants to an immersive virtual reality (IVR) experience using a head-mounted HTC Vive platform. The power of IVR is its ability to enable a person to walk in someone else’s shoes to experience their perspective in a seemingly real way without judgement being cast and people feeling exposed. In the simulation, participants embody avatars as they navigate scenarios representative of common marginalized experiences of those most impacted by non-inclusive engineering environments. Preliminary findings from this work suggest experiencing firsthand marginalized experiences that ‘inclusion privilege’, power and implicit bias commonly circumvent can serve as a means of increasing awareness.

  1. Claudio Vignola Arizona State University, Polytechnic campus [biography]
  2. Mr. Nicholas Flowers Arizona State University [biography]
  3. Dr. Brooke Charae Coley Arizona State University, Polytechnic campus [biography]
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