Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion (DEI)
Students, staff, and faculty in the Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering at the University of Washington embody a variety of backgrounds, perspectives and lived experiences, and yet significant work is needed to create a department that: (i) represents the diversity of our state, country, and world; (ii) provides equitable access to education and research opportunities; and (iii) inclusively welcomes and supports all members of our community.
In an effort to provide transparency and ensure accountability in how decisions are made and resources are allocated, this webpage will report the work being undertaken in our Department and provide pathways for anyone in our community to get involved.
Starting in fall 2021, the UW ECE Department appointed its first Associate Chair for DEI, Professor Sam Burden, and created its DEI Advisory Committee including students, staff, and faculty. The Advisory Committee will oversee and guide the work, determine how resources should be allocated, and hold the Department accountable. The Associate Chair is tasked with ensuring the work gets done and documenting obstacles as they arise. Learn more about DEI leadership members here.
Current and future initiatives (2021-2022)
With the appointment of the Associate Chair for DEI and creation of the DEI Advisory Committee, the UW ECE Department is prepared to solicit proposals for initiatives in the DEI space from members of our community. If you are interested in leading an initiative, you can learn more on the DEI Initiatives web page.
Our current initiatives (as of fall 2021):
- Curriculum reinvention: as part of an effort to establish an undergraduate ECE degree program, a committee was formed in 2020 to make major changes to the undergraduate curriculum. This committee prioritized lowering barriers for transfer students, who constitute approximately one-third of our graduates and are more likely to be members of underrepresented groups than direct-to-college students. If approved, the proposed curriculum changes would be implemented over the course of a 5-year transition period.
- WomXn at the Forefront of ECE Research (WAFER): the first event celebrating women and non-binary researchers in ECE was held Friday, November 19, 2021. The morning was a virtual session open to everyone and featured presentations from leaders in industry — the afternoon was an in-person session open to the UW community and featured presentations and panel discussions from ECE alumni, faculty and students.
- Graduate applicant support program (GASP): current ECE graduate students and postdocs created a pre-application review program that aims to support applicants to our Ph.D. program, especially those from underserved communities, by providing mentorship on application materials. A current Ph.D. student or postdoc from UW ECE Department will provide feedback on an applicant’s resume/CV and statement of purpose.
- Recruitment at NSBE, AISES, SHPE, SWE conferences: we seek to increase the representation of underrepresented communities in our graduate student population by diversifying the applicant pool for ECE MS and Ph.D program admissions. Towards this goal, we attend the national conferences of the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE), American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES), Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE), and Society of Women Engineers (SWE). Attending these conferences enables us to interact with potential applicants, gain insight into institutional barriers, and determine more effective strategies for increasing the number of students from marginalized communities.
If you are interested in serving on our DEI Advisory Committee, or have any feedback or thoughts to share about our DEI strategy, please contact the Associate Chair for DEI at email@example.com.
Past initiatives (2020-2021)
Prior to the appointment of the Associate Chair for DEI and creation of the DEI Advisory Committee, the UW ECE Department undertook several initiatives in the DEI space.
- Groundwork (summer 2020): starting in summer 2020, the UW ECE Department organized a sequence of meetings to collect information and perspectives from key stakeholders. These town hall-style meetings, organized by Professor Mari Ostendorf, Ph.D. candidate Nivii Kalavakonda, and Assistant Professor Sam Burden, were held with students, staff, and faculty, and the responses were compiled to create an internal report that informs our Department’s strategy.
- Curriculum reinvention (spring 2021): as part of an effort to establish an undergraduate UW ECE degree program, a committee was formed in 2020 to make major changes to the undergraduate curriculum. This committee prioritized lowering barriers for transfer students, who constitute approximately one-third of our graduates and are more likely to be members of underrepresented groups than direct-to-college students. If approved, the proposed curriculum changes would be implemented over the course of a 5-year transition period.
- Assessing inclusion in the classroom (spring 2021): in spring 2021, Professor Denise Wilson administered surveys designed to formally assess the experiences of underrepresented groups in a cross-section of our ECE courses. The purpose of these surveys was to more fully understand how classroom experiences differ between groups in terms of self-efficacy, sense of belonging, and other measures of inclusion, with the goal of developing effective methods to level the playing field in the classroom by improving the support provided by faculty, teaching assistants, peers, and advising staff.
- Restorative Circles (summer 2021): in spring 2021, the ECE Department supported Ph.D. student Jordan Drew to organize and lead community grounding events for our BIPOC students, postdocs, and allies. Adopting a meeting model from the International Institute for Restorative Practices, Jordan met with dozens of students over the course of two meetings to help develop relationships, repair harm, and heal from trying circumstances.
- Research Experience for Undergraduates site proposal (summer 2021): in summer 2021, Professor Chet Moritz and Assistant Professor Lillian Ratliff submitted a proposal to the National Science Foundation to establish a summer program for undergraduates to conduct research at the intersection of machine learning and neuroengineering. If funded, this program would partner with minority-serving institutions including Heritage University, Spelman College, and Morehouse College to recruit ten students from underrepresented groups or under-resourced backgrounds each year to gain research experience in UW ECE laboratories starting in summer 2022.
- Faculty and staff workshops (spring 2021, fall 2021): at the spring 2021 and fall 2021 UW ECE faculty and staff retreats, the UW ECE Department hired Dr Joyce Yen, Director of the UW ADVANCE program, to lead workshops on best practices for defining and implementing our diversity, equity, and inclusion strategy. Topics for instruction and discussion included curriculum reinvention, effective evaluation, lead vs lag measures, and methods for systemic / structural change.
- Evaluation of faculty and graduate student applications (summer 2021): in summer 2021, the committees that oversee faculty and graduate student applications undertook major revisions of their evaluation processes. Informed by evidence-based best practices taught to us by Dr. Joyce Yen and Professor Chadwick Allen, applicants are now provided with new guidance regarding the materials they submit, and evaluators are instructed on the use of a multi-faceted rubric.