Diversity in environmental engineering: The good and bad

Tim La Para, Alok Bhandari, Donna Fennell, Kristen Tull, Lee Clapp, Sharon Jones

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Engineering diversity remains a problem in the USA despite ongoing efforts by government, academia, and the private sector. A committee of the Association of Environmental Engineering and Science Professors (AEESP) is characterizing diversity within the environmental engineering field to determine if there are unique issues associated with this profession that need to be addressed. For this effort, diversity includes gender and ethnic diversity in terms of African Americans, Hispanic Americans, and Native Americans. The committee looked at populations of environmental engineering students (based on degrees granted), faculty, and practitioners using available data from the Engineering Workforce Commission, American Society of Engineering Education, U.S. Department of Labor, and the National Science Foundation. As expected, the study shows that contrary to engineering as a whole, the environmental engineering student population is very diverse in terms of gender. There is some gender diversity in terms of environmental engineering faculty, though numbers of female faculty are still below those for the general population. Also, there is a lower percentage of female environmental engineering faculty man the percentage of females graduating with doctorate degrees in that field. However, women are well represented among environmental engineering practitioners with a growing population trend related to the amount of degrees granted. Unfortunately, environmental engineering is not diverse in terms of ethnicity for students, faculty, and practitioners. At the aggregate level, ethnic diversity for environmental engineering is similar to engineering as a whole and well below the general population. Based on the aggregate results, the committee evaluated programs at ABET-accredited undergraduate environmental engineering programs and noted the subset of those colleges that are reportedly implementing best practices to enhance diversity and/or have a particular advantage in terms of attracting diverse students due to location, etc. This evaluation shows that those colleges that are somewhat successful at increasing ethnic diversity in engineering at the undergraduate level have similar success with environmental engineering programs. However, the remaining schools were less successful with achieving ethnic diversity in environmental engineering than within the overall engineering program. The results for ethnic diversity are limited because the populations are small. Additional study is also needed to determine the reasons why ethnically diverse students may choose engineering disciplines other than environmental engineering at a higher rate.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Conference Proceedings
StatePublished - 2006
Event113th Annual ASEE Conference and Exposition, 2006 - Chicago, IL, United States
Duration: Jun 18 2006Jun 21 2006

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Engineering(all)

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