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Engineering Even Better Engineers

New Assistant Dean Whitney Gaskins in UC's College of Engineering and Applied Science is reaching out to underrepresented groups to recruit future engineers.

Date: 2/28/2018
By: Diana Riggs
Phone: (513) 556-9847
Whitney Gaskins, PhD, not only wants to help students avoid pitfalls; she wants to fill in some potholes along the road to success.

Gaskins was appointed assistant dean of inclusive excellence and community engagement for the College of Engineering and Applied Science (CEAS) on Jan. 8. She now oversees all CEAS recruitment and retention efforts to support students in underrepresented minority groups. 
Headshot of Whitney Gaskins from the waist up. She is smiling and wearing a light pink dress
Dr. Whitney Gaskins wants you to be an advocate for inclusion at UC.

Gaskins, also an assistant professor in the Department of Engineering Education, will lead CEAS in creating innovative solutions to barriers that students face while pursuing engineering. She intends to leverage her experiences as an engineer, educator and advocate to make engineering an attainable career path for more students.

Engineering is a growing industry worldwide, but the field can feel inaccessible to students with no point of reference to the STEM culture. The field is well-known for its tight-laced stereotypes, but Gaskins refutes the idea that it takes a certain kind of personality or background to be an engineer.

“You can be who you are and still be an engineer,” she said.
As a three-time graduate of UC (BS, MS and PhD), Gaskins knows from personal experience that engineering can be a rigorous lifestyle to adopt, especially if you don’t fit the traditional mold. Her mission is to make more students feel welcome and supported in the world of engineering.

“You might not have been the tradition, and that is ok; we are changing that tradition because we want everyone to know that they belong and they can be successful in engineering,” she said.

She believes the heart of inclusion excellence lies in valuing diverse skill sets.

“We say ‘we engineer better.’ We know from research that the more diverse your team is, the higher the productivity, the more innovative your products. If that’s what we’re trying to do, we have to believe in inclusivity,” she said.

Gaskins wants to facilitate an adaptable learning environment that is responsive to the needs of a diverse student body. For decades, Gaskins said, many education systems maintained that ABC = engineer.

“Now, there are other letters in the alphabet,” Gaskins said.

There is no one-size-fits-all formula for student success, but the university provides a variety of resources to help students acclimate.

Students need to be able to envision a path to success, and it helps to have a road map. Gaskins and the Inclusive Excellence and Community Engagement (IECE) team recently launched a mentorship program, which matches UC students with alumni and industry mentors. These mentors offer guidance to students as they navigate academic and professional challenges and balance life’s many demands. She believes that matching students with mentors encourages them to develop self-advocacy skills while building social capital in their career field.

In addition to expanding services for minority groups identified by existing inclusion efforts, Gaskins will extend IECE programs to more underrepresented UC students who could benefit from additional support, including first generation, Pell-eligible and non-direct admit students. Gaskins’ broadened definition of inclusion allows even more students to connect to vital resources and invaluable mentorship experiences.

Gaskins said her new position represents a shift in the student-support philosophy. It takes a village to raise an engineer, and everyone in the UC community can play a vital role in creating an inclusive learning environment. There are already a lot of unsung inclusion heroes at UC, and Gaskins is eager to recognize them. She encourages all members of the campus community to engage with her, ask how they can contribute and share ideas for inclusion excellence at UC. 

For more information on CEAS inclusion and community engagement initiatives, please contact Dr. Whitney Gaskins in the Office of Inclusion Excellence and Community Engagement at