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BUILD Gender Diversity Award in Engineering Education 2017

Oregon State University Dedicated to advancing knowledge in the built environment, Oregon State University’s School of Civil and Construction Engineering aims to give students an outstanding engineering education. School Head Jason Weiss provides insight into the program.

ith a long tradition of providing students the education and resources they need to succeed, the Oregon State University School of Civil and Construction Engineering has placed a strategic priority on creating a diverse and inclusive community. Jason Weiss, head of the School and the Miles Lowell and Margaret Watt Edwards Distinguished Chair in Engineering, tells us how the College of Engineering has, and continues to, reach this overall target.

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“To accomplish this, it is essential to recruit and retain world-class faculty and staff who can deliver a curriculum devoted to the fundamentals. Civil engineering and construction engineering management play an important role in the quality of life for everyone. Our school’s students, faculty, and staff use a collaborative approach to make a global impact on the built environment.” Jason explains what the school’s specific focus is, highlighting the four strategic areas that the school has focused on, before going into further detail about what the mission of the school is and how it aims to achieve this. “The school has focused on four strategic areas. Firstly, we aim to develop an inclusive and collaborative community, as well as provide a transformational educational experience that produces graduates who lead change. Additionally, there is an emphasis placed on leading research and innovation to drive breakthroughs that change the world and being a partner of choice for industry, government, and academia. “With research expenditures of over $8 million per year, our school is leading research in the areas of safety, resilience, and infrastructure renewal. From developing infrastructure which can rebound quickly after natural hazards, delivering clean drinking water, or improving construction site safety, we are devoted to improving the world.” What makes the university unique is its experience, reputation and ambition. Jason talks about the size and reputation of the school, and the excellent satisfaction rate of students. “The school is a large land grant program that is part of the 11th largest engineering college in the nation. The School of Civil and Construction Engineering is working to produce students who are workforce-ready with a strong connection to industry. The school is committed supplementing classroom instruction with experiential learning opportunities. For example, 96 percent of this year’s construction engineering graduates participated in an internship and averaged more than two internships during their college career.”

Build 2017 Women in BUILD Awards

Operating within the male-dominated building industry, Jason tells us what percentage of the staff are women and what techniques the university employs to attract the best female talent from across the industry. “In 2013, with only six percent tenure-tenure track faculty on staff, the school recognized that female faculty were severely under represented. We believe it is important for female students to have role models in the program. By altering the search process, the school has been more successful in obtaining a more diverse pool of applicants and obtaining a more diverse staff.” “Excitingly, we are pleased to report that in the 2017-18 academic year, 26 percent of the tenure track faculty are female. We believe this is largely due to changes in the conventional hiring process. In 1988, Katharine Hunter-Zaworski, associate professor of transportation engineering, was the first female faculty member to join the school. Today, Professor Hunter-Zaworski works alongside fellow faculty members Tracy Arras, instructor, Ingrid Arocho, assistant professor of construction, Meghna Babbar-Sebens, associate professor of water resources engineering, Erica Fischer, assistant professor of structural engineering, Judy Liu, professor of structural engineering, Jihye Park, assistant professor of geomatics, Catarina Pestana, instructor, Yelda Turkan, assistant professor of construction, and Yué Zhang, associate professor of structural engineering. We also recently hired Barbara Simpson, assistant professor of structural engineering and Meagan Wengrove, assistant professor of coastal and ocean engineering, to start in the coming year.” Building on the success of previous achievements, Jason predicts what the future may hold for the program. He explains how the school will continue its successful recruitment process when hiring new faculty, and he signs off by explaining what challenges he would like to see within the construction and build market, which would make it easier for women to succeed. “Moving forward, the school will continue to use search advocates when hiring new faculty and will develop leadership in equity and inclusion through seminars. There will hopefully be more opportunities for students to meet and connect with women in industry through experiential learning opportunities.”

BUILD 2017 Women in Build awards  
BUILD 2017 Women in Build awards