Paths to the Deanship in American Academic Engineering: A Snapshot of Who, Where, and How - Harris Search Associates Senior Consultant Dr. Richard Skinner explores the data - featured in winter 2108 edition National Academy of Engineering (NAE) publication of the Bridge

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This article presents findings from analysis of information on 186 full-time and interim/acting deans of engineering in the United States. The information consists of the deans’ gender and race/ethnicity as well as their -educational background and career trajectory—the universities from which they earned their doctorate, previous administrative posts, and whether they assumed the deanship at their current institution or by relocating to another or from outside academia.


The impetus for this study emerged from a June 2017 meeting of African American women engineering faculty celebrating the election of the first African American woman as president of the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE). The celebration was tempered somewhat by the recognition that professional advancement for women in general and -African American women, in particular, has been slow in academic engineering, notwithstanding the good faith efforts of individuals and organizations to improve that condition.

The African American women who came together were representatives of a very small group: 255 tenured full professors in a population of nearly 27,000 tenured and tenure-track engineering faculty members (Yoder 2016). Their success may be instructive to efforts to increase diversity in engineering. Some are products of K–12 schools that remained characterized by racial segregation and unequal funding and resources well after Brown v. Board of Education, Topeka. More often than not, most of them were the only woman of color (or one of very few) in engineering programs, both as students and as professors. Their achievements in earning tenure and the rank of full professor, and the election of an African American woman as ASEE president, are all the more impressive in light of the barriers that had to be overcome.

As intended, the meeting was given over to asking basic questions of both the honoree and the other women present: How did you succeed? What were the toughest barriers to your success? Who or what made that possible? To what do you aspire in academic engineering? If a deanship, why? Is there a single path that leads to a deanship, or might an ambitious engineer forge a different route?  learn more....

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