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Who belongs in engineering? Twitter Chat – Feb 11, 2015

If birds of a feather, flock together, then how do we make engineering ed better? 

Stale stereotypes of engineering as a haven for rare birds persist, and continue to perpetuate an image of an environment that is not welcome to other birds, or even rarer- female and colorful birds. After all, a sense of belonging is a fundamental avian motive. It also happens to be a critical human motive.  We (speaking of humans now) have an almost universal need to form and maintain at least some degree of interpersonal relationships with other humans (Baumeister & Leary, 1995). We want to belong! However, cues to a lack of social belonging in academic domains is related to decreased motivation and achievement (Walton & Cohen, 2007), and ultimately persistence. Thus, even if we are able to increase the diversity in engineering, if we aren’t able to facilitate a culture of belonging for every type of student, then they are likely to find some other place to belong.

phd_stereotype-threatWhat determines who “belongs” in engineering? 

  • Is it the tired and limiting narratives that most often exclude women, people of color, persons with disabilities, non-heteros, right brain creatives, or anti-nerd types?
  • Is it the deeply imbedded implicit biases that subtly yet powerfully manifest in the classroom, hallways, and institutions? Moreover, the curriculum, instruction, and assessment?

How can we as students, educators, professors, professionals, or participant observers help to improve the culture of engineering education, and the workforce, so that every person can find a place to not only belong, but to thrive?

If you have been there, how did you find a place to belong, or survive without it?

How can the ideas of the Whole New Engineer help us?

Join us on February 11th for the first in the series of #BigBeacon twitter chats on Engineering Equity into Education.

We will discuss who belongs in engineering, what determines who belongs, and how to transform engineering education so every student has the potential to belong. We will use engineering thinking to improve equity in education! 

How to Twitter Chat

If you’ve never Twitter chatted before, don’t worry; it’s very easy! First, get a Twitter account if you don’t already have one, and log in. At 8 PM ET on Wednesday go to and type #BigBeacon into the search box on Twitter. Thereafter all the tweets with the hashtag #BigBeacon will show up on your Twitter page. To participate, simply express your opinion by sending a tweet, and be sure to append the hashtag #BigBeacon so other members of the Twitter Chat see you are posting. Alternatively, automate the hashtag search and append feature by using the free service Tchat at

About the Host

meagan_pollock_photoDr. Meagan Pollock is the Director of Professional Development for the National Alliance for Partnerships in Equity. Before turning her focus on the intersection of education and equity, Meagan worked as an engineer for Texas Instruments. Meagan was a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow, and she holds a PhD in engineering education from Purdue University, a MS in electrical engineering from Texas Tech University, and a BS in computer science from Texas Woman’s University. Meagan currently develops programs and products that help educators improve equity in the classroom, ultimately to increase the participation of women and students of color in high-demand, high-wage careers. Meagan has been a #BigBeacon volunteer since 2012. As an engineer turned educator, Meagan is focused on engineering equity into education.


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Baumeister, R. F., & Leary, M. R. (1995). The need to belong: Desire for interpersonal attachments as a fundamental human motivation. Psychological Bulletin, 117(3), 497-529.

Walton, G. M. & Cohen, G. L. (2007). A question of belonging: Race, social fit, and achievement. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 92, 82-96.

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