Equity and equality among construction engineering faculty at Iowa State

In a historically male-dominated field, faculty of Iowa State’s Construction Engineering Program demonstrate progressively diverse backgrounds

Senior Lecturer Beth Hartmann (left) stands with Cyclone Energy, a student organization that competes the National Electrical Contractors Association Green Energy Challenge each year. Teams submit electrical construction management proposals suggesting improvements to electrical systems in local structures. The team has won numerous national championships.
Senior Lecturer Beth Hartmann (left) stands with Cyclone Energy, a student organization that competes in the National Electrical Contractors Association Green Energy Challenge each year. Teams submit electrical construction management proposals suggesting improvements to electrical systems in local structures. The team has won numerous national championships. Photos by Kate Tindall.

Engineering faculty at Iowa State are united when it comes to turning out tomorrow’s problem-solvers.

The 2017-2018 school year marks the first time regular faculty positions in Iowa State University’s Construction Engineering Program (ISU ConE) are equally filled by both men and women. This growing diversity lends increasingly unique backgrounds that guide each student’s journey to a successful engineering career.

“We all have the same goal of turning out well-rounded construction engineering students,” says Associate Professor Jennifer Shane. “Having different faculty role models is important to show that there are different paths to solving problems and interacting with others.”

Iowa State University’s Civil and Construction Engineering Department (now civil, construction and environmental engineering) hired its first ConE female faculty member in 1988. There was a nearly two-decade gap before Shane, the second ConE female faculty member, came to ISU in 2006. Now, the program is comprised of ten regular faculty members, five of whom are women.

Shane, who has served as a mentor to both engineering students and faculty during her 12 years at Iowa State, sees growing diversity in minority representation within the program, as well as a more diverse set of student organizations offered by the department.

Senior Lecturer Brad Perkins (left) teaches a hands-on construction engineering course to students on ISU's campus.
Senior Lecturer Brad Perkins (left) teaches a hands-on construction engineering course to students on ISU’s campus.

Equality and equity are two distinct terms, and both play a part in the story of the ISU ConE Program. Equality aims to promote fairness and to treat everyone the same. Equity describes the act of providing what one needs to be successful.

“With all the candidates that we have brought in, it has always been clear that the candidates we hire are the best choice,” Charles Jahren, professor-in-charge of the ISU ConE Program, says.

The department and its leadership have consistently worked to treat each faculty applicant fairly. With this in mind, equality has been attainable in the ISU ConE Program. Equity comes into play when, as Shane says, students are shown “different faculty role models.” Each student in the program receives the guidance that he or she needs to be successful, both academically and professionally.

A number of construction engineering faculty gather for a group photo. Faculty members include <i>(front row, from left)</i> Jennifer Shane, Aliye Karabulut-Ilgu (civil/construction engineering faculty member), Brad Perkins. <i>(Middle row)</i> Charles Jahren, Cristina Poleacovschi, Larry Cormicle. <i>(Back row)</i> Michael Perez, Kristen Cetin, David Jeong. <i>Not pictured</i> Jenny Baker and Beth Hartmann.
A number of construction engineering faculty gather for a group photo. Faculty members include (front row, from left) Jennifer Shane, Aliye Karabulut-Ilgu (civil/construction engineering faculty member), Brad Perkins. (Middle row) Charles Jahren, Cristina Poleacovschi, Larry Cormicle. (Back row) Michael Perez, Kristen Cetin, David Jeong. (Not pictured) Jenny Baker and Beth Hartmann.

“We design and build facilities that everybody uses,” Jahren explains. “In order to design and build the right things and do it in the right way, it’s good to have people involved in the teaching and learning process that represent the users of our facilities.”


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