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Mar 15 2022

Broadening Participation in Engineering – A 2022 Perspective

MIE Department Seminar

March 15, 2022

11:00 AM - 12:00 PM


1043 ERF and on Zoom at


842 W. Taylor St., Chicago, IL 60607

Presenter: Bevlee A. Watford, PhD, Virginia Tech
Location: ERF 1043 or Zoom.
Meeting ID: 840 2227 5207
Passcode: xPN8J7hY

Abstract: In 1973, the National Academy of Engineering created a National Action Committee for Minorities in Engineering with the goal of determining how to increase the participation of under-represented racial/ethnic groups in engineering. This marks a time in U.S. history where there was formal acknowledgement that engineering as a profession lacked diversity and that this was a problem. That lack of diversity was seen as a limiting factor on our future global competitiveness. Fast forward to 2001 and little has changed. Wm. Wulf, then president of the NAE said “As a consequence of a lack of diversity, we pay an opportunity cost, a cost in designs not thought of, in solutions not produced. Opportunity costs are very real but very hard to measure.” The political climate was in the process of changing, with attitudes toward “race-based programs” changing, forcing these efforts to either desist or become “race neutral.” Still, institutions of higher education continued to seek ways of broadening participation in engineering by underrepresented and underserved groups. It is now 2021 and we are still seeking to diversify the engineering profession. Women, and racial/ethnic minorities continue to be underrepresented in nearly 100% of all STEM fields, not just engineering. What is the current status? Where do we aspire to be? How can we get there and what barriers stand in our way? What actions that can be taken to broaden participation of women and racial/ethnic groups in engineering? This presentation will seek to address these and other issues associated with broadening participation in engineering.

Speaker Bio: Dr. Bevlee A. Watford, P.E. is a professor of engineering education, associate dean for equity and engagement, and the founding executive director of the Center for the Enhancement of Engineering Diversity for the College of Engineering at Virginia Tech. She received her B.S. in mining engineering, and her M.S. and Ph.D. in industrial engineering and operations research from Virginia Tech.

Following an initial position as an assistant professor at Clemson University in 1992, she became the founding executive director of the Center for the Enhancement of Engineering Diversity for the College of Engineering at Virginia Tech, and an associate professor of industrial and systems engineering. In 1997, Watford became the associate dean for Academic Affairs in the College of Engineering. She earned her current rank of professor of engineering education in 2005 and served as interim department head from 2010-11. In 2019, she was named the founding associate dean for equity and engagement.

She has secured more than $12 million in funding and support for CEED and other undergraduate initiatives. Her research activities have focused on the recruitment and retention of students in engineering, with an emphasis on under-represented students. CEED has implemented nationally recognized programs that have enhanced the success of all students. These include freshmen peer mentoring, a summer bridge for incoming freshman and residential living-learning communities that house nearly 600 freshman engineering students. In 2008, Watford received the WEPAN Founders Award in recognition of her service to WEPAN and her efforts to increase the participation of women in the engineering profession. CEED received the 2010 Claire Felbinger Diversity Award from ABET, and the 2011 NSBE-ExxonMobil Impact award for implementing successful research-based efforts to improve retention. In 2014, Watford was one of three finalists in the Global Engineering Deans Council Airbus Diversity Award, selected “for her wide-ranging programs aimed at building an inclusive and diverse engineering student body at Virginia Tech.” In 2019, the College of Engineering was recognized as a Bronze Exemplar institution in the ASEE Deans Diversity Recognition program, largely based on CEED’s activities.

From 2005-2007, she served as a program manager in the Division of Undergraduate Education for the National Science Foundation, returning from 2013-2015 to serve as the program director for broadening participation in the Division of Engineering Education and Centers.

An active member of ASEE since 1986, Watford has served the organization in several capacities. She has held multiple elected offices in WIED and MIND and served as chair of PIC IV. She chaired the Diversity Task Force that resulted in the creation of the ASEE Diversity Strategic Plan as well as the formation of the ASEE Diversity Committee. She served as an associate editor of AEE. In 2010, she was elected as a Fellow of ASEE. She served as ASEE president for the 2017-2018 year. Watford was the 2004-2005 president of the Women in Engineering ProActive Network and has served on the Board of Directors of the National Association of Minority Engineering Program Administrators.


Prof. Carmen Lilley

Date posted

Jan 6, 2022

Date updated

Mar 14, 2022