Engineering associate dean for equity and inclusion featured on NSF podcast

Tonya Peeples speaks about national efforts to improve equity in engineering


By Ashley J. WennersHerron

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Tonya Peeples, associate dean for equity and inclusion and professor of chemical engineering in the Penn State College of Engineering, was featured in the third episode of “Collaborative Strategies for Inclusive Change,” the official podcast of the National Science Foundation INCLUDES Coordination Hub.

The podcast highlights specific projects and partnerships aiming to improve equity, inclusion and accessibility in engineering and science education and careers. Peeples, who is also a professor of chemical engineering, spoke about the national work she co-leads to make institutional changes to improve equity in engineering.

Called the Institutional Change Initiative, also known as IChange, the work is one of the major efforts by the Aspire Alliance, one of the first five NSF INCLUDES alliances. IChange specifically focuses on helping post-secondary institutions assess their current practices and resources dedicated to recruiting, hiring and retaining faculty from underrepresented groups.

According to Peeples, IChange team has designed the effort with the ultimate goals of helping institutions look, act and feel different. These changes should help to create more inclusive learning environments for students underrepresented in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, more innovation among diverse and inclusive research teams and better service to the communities in which universities and faculty serve.

“It’s a humbling endeavor because every institution wants to be a leader in this space,” Peeples said in the podcast. “I think we have to realize we’re leading because we’re working with others. We don’t have all the answers, but we’re working to try to develop — to engineer — these solutions to improve our internal culture while advocating for these external changes that are going to improve equity across engineering.”

Peeples noted that the IChange Network, currently 53 universities strong, has coordinated efforts to align institutional and division self-assessment data requests with the American Society for Engineering Education Engineering Dean’s Gender Equity initiative and the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s SEA Change initiative. Housed in the Association of Public & Land-Grant Universities, Peeples said the IChange Network is well positioned to support senior university leaders in cultivating team and institutional cultures oriented toward people-focused and data-informed strategies for change.

“We’re accountable for the work we’re doing,” Peeples said. “We’re thinking about how our efforts connect with the larger idea of identifying equity in engineering in our curriculum, in the experience for faculty as well as for students and staff.”

NSF INCLUDES, which stands for "Inclusion Across the Nation of Communities of Learners of Underrepresented Discoverers in Engineering and Science," is one of NSF’s 10 Big Ideas to position the United States as a leader in science and engineering across the world. The podcast is hosted by NSF INCLUDES Coordination Hub co-principal investigator Ivory Toldson, a professor of counseling psychology at Howard University and director of education innovation and research at NAACP.

Listen to the podcast here. Read the transcript of the third episode featuring Peeples here.


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