Action for Inclusion in Engineering Education

My closest-colleague, Dr. Inês Direito from University College London’s Centre for Engineering Education, has been working long and hard on a diversity initiative. She spearheaded efforts on the European side to craft “A Call and Pledge for Action” and get it adopted and formally launched by both the European Society of Engineering Education (SEFI) and the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE).

ASEE & SEFI Joint Statement on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Pledge for Action

April 2020

As a member of a global engineering community, I pledge to celebrate diversity, create opportunities, and actively support inclusive environments, in which all my students, colleagues, and members of the wider society are welcomed, respected, and valued. I acknowledge that a path with no examination, reflection, and action perpetuates an inequitable status quo. I commit to work collaboratively with all engineering community members and stakeholders to disrupt systemic exclusion and to create a culture where all will thrive.

This statement was approved by the Board of Directors of the European Society for Engineering Education: SEFI on 27 April 2020 and the Board of Directors of the American Society for Engineering Education: ASEE on 23 March 2020.

Many people on both sides of the Atlantic were crucial to the development and adoption of this “ASEE & SEFI Joint Statement on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion” but I saw first-hand the dedication, hard work, and perseverance of Dr. Direito from start to finish, as I had the desk next to her at UCL for two years and we still work together on various research projects.

Dr. Susan Walden led the effort on the US side and displayed great resilience as well. I hold Susan in even higher esteem now, having watched the process via Inês. You see, Inês rather recently crossed the threshold from Early Career Researcher (ERC) to Senior Researcher, having gained promotion at UCL last September. Working with a skilled, enthusiastic, kind, and mentoring expert like Susan was great for Inês and an inspiration to behold.

Thank goodness for those who mentor others and help our engineering education research (EER) community flourish!

Writing such a document and getting buy-in from the other co-authors, including several from TU Dublin where I teach engineering, is complex enough. But getting the statement endorsed at the highest levels of SEFI and ASEE is remarkable and requires passion for your cause as well as political fortitude.

I wasn’t directly involved, but I watched the process and lent a supportive ear and I am delighted with the results. I extend my own personal thanks to task force members Lesley Berhan, Sara Clavero, Yvonne Galligan, Anne-Marie Jolly, Eric Specking, and Linda Vanasupa and whose who made direction contributions via SEFI (Gabrielle Orbaek White, Bill Williams, Martin Vigild, Mike Murphy, and Yolande Berbers) and ASEE (Rebecca Bates, Jean Bossart, Karin Jeanne Jensen, Liz Litzler, Tasha Zepherin, Stephanie Farrell, Bevlee Watford, and Stephanie Adams). Inês says that Klara Ferdova from SEFI was an amazing support, as well! Thanks to all who contributed to the development and adoption of this document.

Please read the Statement and take the Pledge:

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Third Spaces of Smithfield

Browse the bookshelf.

A good “third space” helps fill the gap left between your home (your first space) and your workplace (your second space).  It should be a place where everyone feels welcome and equal–regardless of income or social status.

I learned about third spaces from one of my thesis advisees at Hampton University, Ryan Kendall, who asserted that we lack adequate third spaces in the USA.  He proposed to transform our beautiful (but increasingly vacant) Post Office buildings into vibrant spaces. He wanted them to be used for socializing, learning, developing physically, and yes, mailing things (in old- and new-fashioned ways). Prior to his thesis year, Ryan worked at NASA Langley. That happened the summer after he completed the Comprehensive Design Studio that I taught alongside Robert Easter. Ryan was a smashing success with NASA.  And the NASA folks have kept coming back, asking for more and more HU interns and for our department’s help on various design projects.

Ryan Kendall in his job at NASA Langley.

Ryan’s main point?

In the States we often neglect our third spaces… or fail to create them all together.

I’ve found that fostering “third space” is a core tradition in Ireland.  The pub has long served this purpose.

When Dave and I visited Ireland in 2003, we saw entire families spend their evenings engrossed in meaningful conversations with neighbors and friends at the various pubs we visited.  Kids ran in and out and people of all ages mingled happily and comfortably.  Although pub culture is not as strong today (the smoking ban took a tool on the pubs), it’s something you can still find in many places.

I’m fortunate to have several great third spaces very close to my apartment here in Dublin’s Smithfield neighborhood, a district also known by its postal code, “Dublin 7.”

My favorite third space is the Cobblestone pub.  Another–where I’m starting to spend more and more time–is aptly called Third Space.

Third Space: changing the city around the table.

Bring some friends. Enjoy the art.

A webpage for the Third Space restaurant explains:

Our story starts in the changes Dublin saw in the “noughties”. Lots of new apartment blocks, lots of new offices and retail units – no gathering places. Living space and working space but no “third space”.

Third spaces are neighbourhood places where people can gather regularly, easily, informally and inexpensively.

Re-introducing such places into areas that lacked them became a passion for a small group of people. And so was born Third Space. It is a social business venture to open and run eating and meeting places in the areas of Dublin that lack community hubs. With a simple and great menu and an informal friendly environment, they will have a creative buzz that connects into the varied life of a modern Dublin neighborhood.

Third Space 1 opened in Smithfield on February 14th 2012.

I had an interesting encounter at both of my “third spaces” this week.  I’ll post them,  so you can see what I mean. Stay tuned! (Click here to read the sequel.)

Grab a lunch. Everyone’s welcome and they’ll make you feel at home… even a barrister (i.e., lawyer, shown to the left) can find a quite place to reflect on the day, away form the busy halls of the Four Courts.