Protecting Global Diversity in Higher Ed

Just last week, I joined leaders from several of America’s engineering societies to emphasize our joint support for protecting America’s engineering workforce, and the many innovations that have come as a result of our broad and diverse global workforce. It is from such diversity that our country’s most groundbreaking ideas have been able to thrive, and this is no time to let our spirit of innovation suffer. Protecting our workforce will be a moot point if we don’t invest equal efforts in protecting the diversity of our higher education programs.

At ABET, we have seen how the seeds of innovation and collaboration take hold in higher education institutions and programs around the world. The international diversity — not only of students but also of faculty — in STEM programs at U.S. colleges and universities is vital to creating a globally aware workforce, something that has never been more important than it is in today’s global economy. And indeed, there is strong demand — from employers, schools and students alike — for a common point of reference with respect to international standards for STEM education.

As the global accreditor of university programs in STEM areas, we not only believe in, but encourage, the open flow of ideas that lead to solutions to our world’s most complex and pressing problems. We also believe in setting uniform, global standards of quality as a way to hold our higher education programs accountable for delivering the best quality educational experience for today’s globally-focused students.

Graduates from ABET-accredited programs are leading the way in emerging technologies that are building a world that’s safer, more efficient, more comfortable and more sustainable. And they are doing that through the quality education that our global economy depends on. Just ask such “blue chip” companies like IBM, UPS and General Motors or government agencies like the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers or Sandia National Labs, who value, prefer, and many times require employees who graduate from ABET-accredited programs. These employers understand the critical importance of maintaining and expanding diversity in institutions of higher learning and in our future workforce. And so do we.

So what happens if America ignores diversity? How will it impact our educational institutions? How much talent will our companies lose? How far will our economy fall behind? These are the kinds of questions we should be asking ourselves today more than ever.

Global diversity is, and will remain, a key area of focus for us in the year ahead. ABET’s Diversity & Inclusion Ad Hoc Committee will release its findings and recommendations to our Board in the next few weeks. After that, these findings will be shared with the larger public during our Symposium, where we will convene conversations on how STEM programs can reshape society globally.

Citizen Tech is this year’s theme of our flagship event, the ABET Symposium, which will take place in our hometown of Baltimore, April, 20–21. Our plenary discussions will feature thought leaders in the technology and higher education spaces. On Thursday, our opening plenary will bring together Johns Hopkins University President Ron Daniels, University of Maryland Dean of Engineering Darryll Pines and Michael Cryor, Chair of OneBaltimore. And, on Friday, I will be joined by Ian Waitz, MIT Dean of Engineering; John Tolva, former CTO of the City of Chicago and co-founder of CityFi Advisors; and Janice Perlman, CEO of the Mega Cities Project. Our goal during the Symposium is to explore how to educate the STEM professionals of tomorrow, today. Our objective in each of these conversations is to underscore how diversity — of thought, perspectives and backgrounds — and collaboration in higher education can positively impact society, not only in the U.S., but in cities and communities all over the world. To us, Citizen Tech acknowledges the importance of quality and standards in education and in a global workforce for the global citizen, here at home and throughout the world.

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