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A Challenge to Engineering Faculty

Political science graduate student Cynthia Rice and civil engineering professor David Mays have just published an article in the journal Advances in Engineering Education entitled, “Building Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion into an Engineering Course” (link This paper summarizes their process to engineer diversity, equity, and inclusion into an undergraduate fluid mechanics course. The key point: The same technical material can be associated with vastly different lived experiences.

For example, consider this picture of Hoover Dam, which impounds Lake Mead on the Colorado River near Las Vegas, Nevada.

Dams like this provide water storage, flood control, recreation, and carbon-neutral hydroelectric power, which is important these days considering climate change. This is one lived experience of fluid mechanics. But did you notice there are no people in this photo? This omission whitewashes how dams impact communities. For example, consider this next photo.

Here we see Tribal Chairman George Gillette weeping after being forced to approve Garrison Dam, which impounds Lake Sakakawea on the Missouri River in North Dakota. He is weeping because he knows this artificial lake will permanently destroy his tribe’s way of life. This is a fundamentally different lived experience of fluid mechanics.

Here is the challenge: Engineering faculty need to listen when possible, engage students in a culturally appropriate way, and honestly deal with history and the current marginalization of students. And here is the suggested pathway: Engineering faculty should avail themselves of opportunities to gain new perspectives, and then to conduct themselves and their classes in light of those perspectives.


Rice, C. and D.C. Mays (2022), Building diversity, equity, and inclusion into an engineering course, Advances in Engineering Education, 10(4), 2-11.

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At the CU Denver College of Engineering, Design and Computing, we focus on providing our students with a comprehensive engineering education at the undergraduate, graduate and professional level. Faculty conduct research that spans our five disciplines of civil, electrical and mechanical engineering, bioengineering, and computer science and engineering. The college collaborates with industry from around the state; our laboratories and research opportunities give students the hands-on experience they need to excel in the professional world.

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