Promoting an inclusive lab culture through custom in-person trainings within an engineering department

Lisa R. Volpatti, Kara Rodby, Gurleen Kaur Singh, Bianca Kaushal, Kelley Marie Adams, Paula T. Hammond, Sarah Rankin

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review


Creating diverse, inclusive, and respectful environments is the #1 recommendation of the 2018 National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine report on 'Sexual Harassment of Women' [1]. To accomplish this goal, the report suggests that academic institutions cater their training to specific populations, use qualified, in-person trainers, and instruct participants how to intervene. These recommendations motivated a chemical engineering department at a technical institute to develop a custom in-person training program in collaboration with the Title IX and Bias Response (T9BR) and the Violence Prevention and Response (VPR) offices. The in-person trainings, entitled 'Promoting a Professional and Inclusive Lab Culture,' were mandatory for all laboratory groups in the department, including faculty, staff, and trainees. To promote discussion and interaction within the context of individual lab cultures, training sessions were small (~20 participants) and grouped lab members together. The trainings were facilitated by members of the T9BR and VPR offices and covered aspects of a culture (including values and beliefs, verbal expressions, and behaviors), contexts of power, methods of intervening, and resources/support. The 120-minute sessions included presentation, interactive activities, and realistic example scenarios customized to the department with the goal of promoting respectful work behavior. Approximately 480 individuals participated in the training, representing 33 lab groups in a total of 28 sessions held over the course of 8 months. Exit survey results indicate that 95% of participants felt there was a good mix of presentation and interactivity and 93% felt that the content was neither too basic nor too advanced. In the follow-up survey, greater than 85% of respondents 'strongly agreed' or 'agreed' that these trainings sent a positive message about departmental values and would recommend the trainings in other departments. We believe that custom in-person trainings such as the one described here have the potential to positively impact the culture of an engineering department.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1146
JournalASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Conference Proceedings
StatePublished - Jun 22 2020
Event2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference, ASEE 2020 - Virtual, Online
Duration: Jun 22 2020Jun 26 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Engineering


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