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CEE faculty awarded DEI grant to reshape undergraduate curriculum

The College of Engineering award will fund a project intended to integrate social justice, environmental justice and equity into the CEE undergraduate curriculum.

Civil and Environmental Engineering Professors Nancy Love, Neda Masoud and Jason McCormick have been awarded $5,000 from University of Michigan College of Engineering for their project, “Creating Systemic Change within the Civil and Environmental Engineering Discipline around Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.” CEE will match the grant and contribute an additional $5,000 to the project.

The project will consist of departmental meetings, activities within the community, course development, seminars and a final summit in May. The overarching goal is to integrate equity and social and environmental justice into the CEE curriculum. The submitting professors will work with the CEE Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Committee to align the project’s efforts with the committee’s goals. 

The new funding opportunity, established this summer by Michigan Engineering, supports faculty members leading activities that foster diversity, equity and inclusion in their departments. DEI grants from Michigan Engineering fund projects that work to create a more inclusive environment for students, staff and faculty. 

The proposal submitted by Professors Love, Masoud and McCormick argues that “historical approaches to design that may have been considered normative in their time are now seen as having contributed to the assembly of physical elements that marginalize and lead to inequities in communities.” 

The submitting professors recognize that technological advancements in the field of civil and environmental engineering have the potential to increase inequality even further, and that it is thus essential to acknowledge this fact in the curriculum now so that students are able to prevent structural inequities and stratification from continuing in future designs. 

“Civil and environmental engineers solve complex challenges facing societies, and are therefore well-positioned to address inequities within communities. However, the civil and environmental engineering curriculum needs to be revised to train the next generation of leaders to be conscious of existing and potential future inequities and equipped with tools to battle them,” said Masoud.

One of the main aspects of this project will involve creating a Learning Community within the department and wider U-M campus. This working group will interrogate the relationship between civil infrastructure and historical gaps in progress toward DEI and then develop, test and assess the broad incorporation of DEI concepts into the CEE curriculum. Towards this end, outside guests will be invited to participate in Learning Community seminars. Additionally, Community members will develop class content and will serve as consultants for faculty seeking to incorporate DEI material into their own classes in future semesters. 

The year’s efforts will culminate in The Action Summit on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in Civil and Environmental Engineering in May 2021, an event that will focus on the curricular gaps identified by the Learning Community and members of the department. Student feedback will be key in pinpointing these gaps and highlighting areas for improvement. The summit will include working group activities and keynote lectures by nationally-recognized outside speakers, with the goal of developing an action report detailing CEE curriculum and training modifications to better educate DEI-informed civil and environmental engineers.

The Michigan Engineering grant and the resulting project will build upon goals set forth by the CEE DEI Committee. Of the six broad goals of the Committee, the submitting professors’ project aligns most with action item six: “Creating a more just future by transforming our curriculum.” 

According to the submitting professors, this project responds to requests from students eager to incorporate more DEI into their careers. Love, Masoud and McCormick are also hopeful that increased visibility of DEI values will foster understanding and sensitivity within the U-M community outside of curriculum changes alone, and that the program will be a “rallying point” for students, postdocs, faculty, staff and alumni alike. 

“The impetus behind the DEI Grant is to engage the whole department around the idea of socially-aware design through development of material and processes to integrate this and other DEI-related into CEE courses. In having these conversations and developing these DEI-centered materials, we hope to create a community within the Department that understands that choices, whether or not they are directly related to Civil and Environmental Engineering, need to be made in a socially-aware manner,” said McCormick.


Portrait of Mason Hinawi
Mason Hinawi

Marketing Communications Specialist
Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering