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Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Culture

two students outdoors


Diversity, equity and inclusion are fundamental to our culture and to our mission as a public educational institution. We strive to create an inclusive and welcoming environment where people of all backgrounds, who bring a range of perspectives and life experiences, are welcomed, heard and supported. We celebrate and value differences among our students, faculty and staff; this includes diversity with respect to race, ethnicity, national origin, sex, gender identity, religion, sexual orientation, ability/disability, age, socioeconomic background, academic experience and veteran status.

We acknowledge that systemic racism exists in our society and our institutions, including academic institutions. We believe that Black lives matter. We are committed to anti-racism: to acknowledge, understand and directly confront the historical inequities in our field and the structures and barriers that have led to those inequities.

We value and acknowledge the Coast Salish peoples of this land, the land which touches the shared waters of all tribes and bands within the Suquamish, Tulalip and Muckleshoot nations. We are committed to a departmental culture that is supportive and welcoming for all people, including American Indian/Alaska Native students, staff and faculty.

Relevance to civil and environmental engineering

Diverse teams are crucial for success in engineering projects and organizations. Diversity brings new ideas and life experiences to the field. Encouraging and supporting a diverse engineering community is important for building a vibrant UW CEE and society at large.

CEE, like many engineering fields, has too often focused only on equations and the application of chemistry, math and physics to solve narrowly defined engineering problems, without acknowledging that engineering can reflect and impose inequality. Civil engineering infrastructure has been used to perpetuate and enforce racial segregation. Environmental engineering has too often ignored environmental racism, with communities of color and economically disadvantaged communities bearing the brunt of pollution. We are committed to doing better, in the education and research that our department delivers.

What are we doing?

Words are not enough. Our community is taking concrete actions toward a diverse and actively inclusive and equitable environment. We are committed to holding ourselves accountable for making progress toward these goals; we hope others will do the same.

In 2018, our Department Chair established a faculty led Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Culture (DEIC) Committee, whose work has accelerated in recent months. Below, we list DEIC activities that have been initiated since spring 2020. We thank our students for organizing and petitioning the department for meaningful change. We are committed to their vision for a diverse, equitable and inclusive CEE.

Actions need to be short- and long-term. Below is a list of top current items:

Promotion and tenure criteria that rewards DEIC efforts (CEE student petition item)

Our DEIC Committee is working with the College of Engineering (CoE) Dean’s Office to support updates to the Engineering Promotion and Tenure faculty toolkit that explicitly recognize and reward faculty DEIC efforts. Fall 2020 status: In September 2020, the CoE Dean’s Office approved the language changes we proposed. We will continue to track and support these changes.

Student-led petition

In Spring 2020, CEE undergraduate students led a petition from our student body to the CEE department to advocate for change. Student demands included the following: to include DEIC-related questions in teaching evaluations, a new DEIC focused course and adding DEIC content to core CEE classes. Fall 2020 status: The DEIC Committee is working toward these goals; the status of each is given in this listing.

Modifying teaching evaluations in the College of Engineering (CEE student petition item)

We have discussed this request with the CoE Dean’s Office. Fall 2020 status: The Dean’s office is currently investigating changes to teaching evaluations across the CoE to include specific questions on DEIC student issues and with attention to evaluation biases experienced by underrepresented faculty.

GRE admission requirements for graduate student applications

GRE scores are optional for fall 2020 due to COVID-19. Fall 2020 status: During 2020-21, CEE faculty will vote on dropping the GRE requirement permanently and potentially replacing it with new questions.

Pandemic caregiving support for the CEE community

The ongoing global pandemic is having enormous consequences for faculty, staff and students, especially those who have caregiver responsibilities. Seattle Public Schools have moved online for Fall 2020, which will strongly impact families in Seattle. Our department chair has talked with faculty members, especially female faculty members, who statistically are disproportionately impacted by caregiving responsibilities, to determine accommodations for the caregivers in our community. She has given recommendations to UW’s newly established Caregivers Committee, is investigating teaching and service loads for faculty and has reached out to connect with students who are parents. Fall 2020 status: The newly established Caregivers Committee is providing recommendations to the UW community. See Caring for self and family and COVID-19 Caregiver Task Force for more information.

Fostering inclusivity through a virtual cajitas project

Led by CEE graduate students, and inspired by an anti-racism online training many CEE community members participated in, we are implementing a version of a cajitas project. The goal is to help foster an inclusive community for new undergraduate students in our department. Cajitas (small wooden boxes filled with family artifacts and belongings) were carried by Mexican migrants; in this virtual version, incoming students provide a short video introducing something meaningful to them to their fellow students and the department. Fall 2020 status: Implemented.

Website updates

We have extensively revised the CEE DEIC website. New features include clear statements about our values, an anonymous DEIC feedback form, data from the first listening session, and an itemized list of concrete DEIC progress within the department. Fall 2020 status: Implemented.

Pursuing equitable bathrooms

More Hall, which houses much of our department, is an old building that has too few women’s restrooms and no dedicated options for non-binary students. The department has requested a quote for options that could address these inequities. We anticipate these costs will likely be unaffordable in the absence of significant new donations to the department, due to asbestos abatement requirements for all construction in More Hall and current extreme budgetary constraints. With UW being online for Fall 2020, the number of people using the bathrooms each day is small. Fall 2020 status: On hold.

Graduate seminar including topics on racial, social and environmental justice in CEE

In Fall 2020, we will target racial, social and environmental justice topics in a recurring graduate seminar that is also available to undergraduates. Selected seminars will also be made available to the public. Faculty and invited speakers will present cutting edge research and practice regarding justice through and in civil and environmental engineering. Fall 2020 status: Implemented.

Adding DEIC content to CEE courses (CEE student petition item)

The DEIC Committee is working to determine what DEIC content is already present in our curriculum. Our department is home to two University-approved diversity courses and many faculty are working over the summer to add DEIC content to other courses. For example, the faculty teaching CEE 307: Construction Engineering are creating a recurring series of modules on DEIC in engineering projects and organizations that will become a standard part of the content taught in that class. The DEIC Committee anticipates leveraging the weekly DEIC Action Accountability Sessions as a mechanism to provide time and support for faculty to add DEIC content to their courses. Fall 2020 status: Initiating conversations on current status and how to make improvements.

Dedicated DEIC course on CEE topics (CEE student petition item)

Led by assistant professor Jessica Ray, for the past two years the DEIC Committee applied for funding to support training and the development of a new DEIC-themed course. A grant application is currently pending. The DEIC Committee has also initiated discussions with expert faculty from other departments to create strategies for this student-requested course. Fall 2020 status: Initiated brainstorming.

DEIC Action Accountability Sessions

During the academic year, the DEIC Committee will hold weekly DEIC Action Accountability Sessions, where faculty and staff commit an hour a week to jointly learning or taking action on DEIC issues. The DEIC committee is currently compiling learning resources to better enable everyone to engage. Fall 2020 status: Inviting participants.

Listening sessions to gather input

On June 17, 2020, we held a department-wide listening session. This was an opportunity for students, staff and faculty to anonymously share their experiences in our department. We thank all attendees for their participation and anticipate holding a second department-wide listening session in the near future. The Zoom recording and poll results are available below:

Trainings and self-education opportunities

Many of our faculty, staff and students have participated in trainings and done reading about systematic racism, systemic bias and other DEIC topics, and how to work toward solutions. CEE staff established an anti-racism reading group specifically for staff members; they have also applied for grant funding to support the cost of book purchase for students who may not otherwise afford anti-racism materials. The grant application is currently pending. Fall 2020 status: In discussion about how to implement.

The list above is incomplete! There are many other activities happening in the department and in individual faculty members lab groups. Several faculty members have their own DEIC activities. The CEE undergraduate and graduate student advising blog also contains information about DEIC-related activities and opportunities.

Professors Jessica Kaminsky and Julian Marshall are leading the CEE DEIC Committee in 2020-2021, which will begin to meet in Fall 2020. We appreciate the donated time of many faculty, staff and students that has enabled us to make progress on this important issue during summer 2020, and the significant efforts of past years’ DEIC committees.

Resources and support

There are many lists online of DEIC-related books, articles, social media and other material. Here are a few examples:

Science magazine: “Time to look in the mirror” editorial

UW Libraries: Racial Justice Resources: Keeping Current

The Seattle Public Library: A Toolkit for Anti-racism Allies

Minority Scholars Engineering Program Open to all students, the Minority Scholars Engineering Program is committed to increasing the number of underrepresented students in engineering and computer science.

Graduate Opportunity and Minority Achievement Program GO-MAP is committed to serving the needs of underrepresented graduate students of color, to enhance equity and graduate student success.

Undergraduate Engineering Scholarships Student Academic Services awards scholarships for minorities throughout the year, including the National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering and HP Scholar Programs.

Mathematics Engineering Science Achievement (MESA) Washington Provides enriching opportunities in mathematics, engineering and science for underrepresented students in grades K-12.

Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers Dedicated to empowering Hispanics to become STEM professionals through internship, networking, mentoring and diversity awareness opportunities.

Women in Science and Engineering The WiSE program recruits and supports women of all ethnic backgrounds in science and engineering, to create a more diverse academic and social climate at UW.

National Society of Black Engineers To increase the number of black engineers who excel academically, succeed professionally and positively impact the community, NSBE sponsors a career fair and other events.

American Indian Science & Engineering Society Educational programs provide opportunities for American Indians and Native Alaskans to pursue studies in science, engineering, business and other academic arenas.

Society of Women Engineers SWE offers scholarships, competitions, job and internship resources and recognition of outstanding achievements through awards.

Society of Advancing Chicanos and Native Americans in Sciences A national organization, SACNAS promotes diversity in the sciences. Founded by Chicano and Native American scientists, all races are welcome to join in promoting diversity in science.

College of Engineering Diversity & Student Programs Programs provide financial, social, academic and cultural support to engineering students.

UW Veterans Center Connect with other veterans and find university resources specifically designed for veterans.

Student Parent Resource Center If you have children age 12 or younger who need child care during the academic year, you may be eligible for assistance through the University's Student Parent Resource Center.

Women's Center Offers free services to women who are considering returning to school after a significant time away or who need additional support and advice in making the transition to college.

Disability Services Office Committed to providing reasonable academic accommodations to qualified students with disabilities at the UW.

Disabilities, Opportunities, Internetworking & Technology DO-IT is a support organization that serves to increase the participation of individuals with disabilities through the use of computer and networking technologies.

Office of Minority Affairs Programs and services that promote multiculturalism, student access and academic achievement.

Diversity at the UW In support of diversity across UW’s three campuses, the Office of Minority Affairs & Diversity offers a number of resources.

UW Carelink (for faculty and staff) and UW MentalHealth (for students) provide access to counseling and other services.

How will we be held accountable?

We are committed to holding ourselves accountable and to making real and sustained progress toward our goals. We commit to regular (bi-annual) updates of DEIC activities within our department via this website and, as appropriate, other outlets.

We hope you will hold us accountable, too, and will let us know when we fall short. Do you see opportunities for improvement, is there a project you think we should add to our list, or would you like to get involved in making positive change? The DEIC Committee and our department chair welcome your input. You may contact us by using the anonymous DEIC feedback form.