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  1. null (Ed.)
    In June 2020, at the annual conference of the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE), which was held entirely online due to the impacts of COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2), engineering education researchers and social justice scholars diagnosed the spread of two diseases in the United States: COVID-19 and racism. During a virtual workshop (T614A) titled, “Using Power, Privilege, and Intersectionality as Lenses to Understand our Experiences and Begin to Disrupt and Dismantle Oppressive Structures Within Academia,” Drs. Nadia Kellam, Vanessa Svihla, Donna Riley, Alice Pawley, Kelly Cross, Susannah Davis, and Jay Pembridge presented what we might call a pathological analysis of institutionalized racism and various other “isms.” In order to address the intersecting impacts of this double pandemic, they prescribed counter practices and protocols of anti-racism, and strategies against other oppressive “isms” in academia. At the beginning of the virtual workshop, the presenters were pleasantly surprised to see that they had around a hundred attendees. Did the online format of the ASEE conference afford broader exposure of the workshop? Did recent uprising of Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests across the country, and internationally, generate broader interest in their topic? Whatever the case, at a time when an in-person conference could not be convened without compromising public health safety, ASEE’s virtual conference platform, furnished by Pathable and supplemented by Zoom, made possible the broader social impacts of Dr. Svihla’s land acknowledgement of the unceded Indigenous lands from which she was presenting. Svihla attempted to go beyond a hollow gesture by including a hyperlink in her slides to a COVID-19 relief fund for the Navajo Nation, and encouraged attendees to make a donation as they copied and pasted the link in the Zoom Chat. Dr. Cross’s statement that you are either a racist or an anti-racist at this point also promised broader social impacts in the context of the virtual workshop. You could feel the intensity of the BLM social movements and the broader political climate in the tone of the presenters’ voices. The mobilizing masses on the streets resonated with a cutting-edge of social justice research and education at the ASEE virtual conference. COVID-19 has both exacerbated and made more obvious the unevenness and inequities in our educational practices, processes, and infrastructures. This paper is an extension of a broader collaborative research project that accounts for how an exceptional group of engineering educators have taken this opportunity to socially broaden their curricula to include not just public health matters, but also contemporary political and social movements. Engineering educators for change and advocates for social justice quickly recognized the affordances of diverse forms of digital technologies, and the possibilities of broadening their impact through educational practices and infrastructures of inclusion, openness, and accessibility. They are makers of what Gary Downy calls “scalable scholarship”—projects in support of marginalized epistemologies that can be scaled up from ideation to practice in ways that unsettle and displace the dominant epistemological paradigm of engineering education.[1] This paper is a work in progress. It marks the beginning of a much lengthier project that documents the key positionality of engineering educators for change, and how they are socially situated in places where they can connect social movements with industrial transitions, and participate in the production of “undone sciences” that address “a structured absence that emerges from relations of inequality.”[2] In this paper, we offer a brief glimpse into ethnographic data we collected virtually through interviews, participant observation, and digital archiving from March 2019 to August 2019, during the initial impacts of COVID-19 in the United States. The collaborative research that undergirds this paper is ongoing, and what is presented here is a rough and early articulation of ideas and research findings that have begun to emerge through our engagement with engineering educators for change. This paper begins by introducing an image concept that will guide our analysis of how, in this historical moment, forms of social and racial justice are finding their way into the practices of engineering educators through slight changes in pedagogical techniques in response the debilitating impacts of the pandemic. Conceptually, we are interested in how small and subtle changes in learning conditions can socially broaden the impact of engineering educators for change. After introducing the image concept that guides this work, we will briefly discuss methodology and offer background information about the project. Next, we discuss literature that revolves around the question, what is engineering education for? Finally, we introduce the notion of situating engineering education and give readers a brief glimpse into our ethnographic data. The conclusion will indicate future directions for writing, research, and intervention. 
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  2. null (Ed.)
    This paper is based on a series of semi-structured, qualitative interviews that were conducted with students, by an undergraduate student and lead author of this paper, that focused on their experiences with educational technologies and online teaching pedagogy in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. As U.S. educators scrambled to adapt to online course delivery modes as a result of the first wave of the pandemic in the spring 2020 semester, those in the educational technology and online learning community saw the potential of this movement to vastly accelerate the implementation of online systems in higher education. A shift that may have taken 20 years to accomplish was implemented in two waves, first with the immediate forced shift to online learning in March 2020; and second, a less immediate shift to hybrid and online instruction designed to accommodate the different geographic variation in COVID-19 intensity, along with varied political and institutional ecologies surrounding online versus in-person instruction for the 2020-2021 academic year. With all of the rapid changes that were occurring during the spring of 2020, we wanted to investigate how students experienced and perceived faculty use of technology during this particular moment in time. This study documents this transition through the eyes of undergraduate students, and demonstrates the varied ways in which faculty navigated the transition to online learning. According to our interviewees, some faculty were thoughtful and competent and provided a supportive environment that paid attention to a students’ capacity for online learning, rather than maintaining traditional instructional practices. Others relied on practices from in-person instruction that were familiar, but appeared to be nervous in the new online teaching environment. Then there were those who seemed occupied by other concerns, where a focus on effective undergraduate teaching remained limited to begin with, and their approach to online instruction was driven by convenience. Our qualitative data clearly reveals that the ways in which faculty conducted their online courses directly impacted student learning experiences. In this study, we set out to document both the faculty instructional strategies in a hybrid/online environment and student accounts of those choices and their resulting experiences. While we continue to analyze this unique data set on this moment of transition in engineering education, we hope that this paper will also lead to policy recommendations regarding faculty adaptations to online instruction in general. We include some initial thoughts and recommendations below. 
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  3. This paper reflects on the significance of ABET’s “maverick evaluators” and what it says about the limits of accreditation as a mode of governance in US engineering education. The US system of engineering education operates as a highly complex system, where the diversity of the system is an asset to robust knowledge production and the production of a varied workforce. ABET Inc., the principal accreditation agency for engineering degree programs in the US, attempts to uphold a set of professional standards for engineering education using a voluntary, peer-based system of evaluation. Key to their approach is a volunteer army of trained program evaluators (PEVs) assigned by the engineering professional societies, who serve as the frontline workers responsible for auditing the content, learning outcomes, and continuous improvement processes utilized by every engineering degree program accredited by ABET. We take a look specifically at those who become labeled “maverick evaluators” in order to better understand how this system functions, and to understand its limitations as a form of governance in maintaining educational quality and appropriate professional standards within engineering education. ABET was established in 1932 as the Engineers’ Council for Professional Development (ECPD). The Cold War consensus around the engineering sciences led to a more quantitative system of accreditation first implemented in 1956. However, the decline of the Cold War and rising concerns about national competitiveness prompted ABET to shift to a more neoliberal model of accountability built around outcomes assessment and modeled after total quality management / continuous process improvement (TQM/CPI) processes that nominally gave PEVs greater discretion in evaluating engineering degree programs. However, conflicts over how the PEVs exercised judgment points to conservative aspects in the structure of the ABET organization, and within the engineering profession at large. This paper and the phenomena we describe here is one part of a broader, interview-based study of higher education governance and engineering educational reform within the United States. We have conducted over 300 interviews at more than 40 different academic institutions and professional organizations, where ABET and institutional responses to the reforms associated with “EC 2000,” which brought outcomes assessment to engineering education, are extensively discussed. The phenomenon of so-called “maverick evaluators” reveal the divergent professional interests that remain embedded within ABET and the engineering profession at large. Those associated with Civil and Environmental Engineering, and to a lesser extent Mechanical Engineering continue to push for higher standards of accreditation grounded in a stronger vision for their professions. While the phenomenon is complex and more subtle than we can summarize in an abstract, “maverick evaluators” emerged as a label for PEVs who interpreted their role, including determinations about whether certain content “appropriate to the field of study,” utilizing professional standards that lay outside of the consensus position held by the majority of the member of the Engineering Accreditation Commission. This, conjoined with the engineers’ epistemic aversion to uncertainty and concerns about the legal liability of their decisions, resulted in a more narrow interpretation of key accreditation criteria. The organization then designed and used a “due-process” reviews process to discipline identified shortcomings in order to limit divergent interpretations. The net result is that the bureaucratic process ABET built to obtain uniformity in accreditation outcomes, simultaneously blunts the organization’s capacity to support varied interpretations of professional standards at the program level. The apparatus has also contributed to ABET’s reputation as an organization focused on minimum standards, as opposed to one that functions as an effective driver for further change in engineering education. 
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  4. In this paper or poster presentation, we hope to present to and interact with our audience with respect to a key touchpoint in our national study of engineering education reform. Based on an NSF collaborative grant, our project team has conducted approximately 280 semi-structured interviews at over 40 different institutions with regards to change processes that operate within engineering education. Originally inspired by our earlier work on ABET, we framed our study around questions of governance, namely how national organizations and national conversations do and don’t shape changes in engineering education. However, our early interviews made it very clear that US engineering schools viewed themselves as participating in a competitive market, where local initiatives and innovations are as important if not more important to their student experience and institutional reputation. This said, market mechanisms and the way in which local innovations circulate (entrepreneurship, maker spaces, humanitarian engineering) are themselves a form of coordination, pointing to more subtle modes of governance that operate within engineering education. Drawing on the multi-theory framework of Austin and Jones’ for understanding Higher Education Governance (2015), we use this presentation to begin to tease apart the different modes through which change occurs within engineering education. 
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