Diversity and Community Engagement
The University of Mississippi

School of Engineering

School of Engineering 
Five-Year Equity-in-Action Plan

Message from Dean Dave Puleo

Solving the engineering challenges of the 21st century requires diverse teams representing different backgrounds, perspectives and life experiences. The innovation and creativity fostered through such experiences are needed to advance our state. As a pillar of the flagship university of Mississippi, the School of Engineering is committed to promoting a culture of diversity, equity and inclusion throughout our constituencies.

Although gains have been made, STEM disciplines, and engineering and computer science in particular, still show a lack of diversity. In the School of Engineering for the fall 2020 semester, women made up 24% of undergraduates, while 6.7% were African American and 2.9% were Hispanic. By comparison, the 2019 population of Mississippi was 51.5% female, 37.8% African American and 3.4% Hispanic. To realize our potential for the state of Mississippi, we must engage, include and encourage people across all segments of society.

This Equity-in-Action plan provides a framework of initiatives that enable progress in making the school an accessible and welcoming community for engineers and scientists. The plan focuses on creating diverse pipelines, improving student persistence and success, engaging with industry for achieving these goals, providing diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) training for students, faculty and staff, and establishing practices to increase the diversity of faculty and staff hires.

Message from Diversity Liaison

In the School of Engineering, our goal is to educate, empower and inspire our students to become leaders in the science, engineering and technology industries for the state of Mississippi, the country and the world. We seek to achieve this goal by providing one-of-a-kind learning experiences both inside and outside the classroom to better prepare our students to face the many engineering challenges of the 21st century. Meeting those challenges will require the ability to work effectively in diverse teams and understand the importance of equity and inclusion within their work and in their future roles as industry leaders. However, to achieve our goal as educators and mentors, the School of Engineering must embody the overall vision that we have for our students. That means setting a high standard for faculty, staff and administration ensuring committees are diverse, opportunities for students are equitable, and engineering clubs, events and activities are inclusive to all of our students as well as the future students we seek to reach within the state of Mississippi and around the country.

Our equity-in-action plan stems from our mission and vision to provide a personal, rigorous and unique educational experience for our students that enables them to become leaders in engineering. Through this plan, we seek to create a diverse, equitable and inclusive environment for our students to learn and grow as well as an environment for our faculty and staff to succeed and achieve. This plan extends into five core activities, each with its own goals and metrics to ensure all members of our academic community stay engaged in our collective mission. This plan consists of short and long-term goals that may require five-10 years of work to come to fruition. However, we stand committed as an academic community of excellence to the pursuit of these goals.

Guiding Statements


The school capitalizes on its engineering science tradition, a low student-to-faculty ratio and a rich liberal arts environment to give future professionals deep technical abilities, the capacity to adapt to the rapid changes in engineering, and the interdisciplinary background and aptitude for innovation that sets them apart from graduates of other engineering schools.


The school will positively transform lives and communities through innovative engineering education and discovery.

To this end, The School of Engineering is committed to increasing diversity, equity and inclusion among our students, faculty and staff. We recognize that the intersectionality of race, ethnicity, gender, nationality, class and other defining characteristics play a critical role in developing creativity and innovation in and promoting the deeper information processing and complex thinking that are vital for the education of future generations of engineers and computer scientists. And as the flagship university of Mississippi, we owe it to citizens of the state to provide access and opportunities for all.  

Pathways to Equity: University of Mississippi Institutional Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Strategic Plan

The University of Mississippi continues its commitment to excellence and making a positive difference in society through higher education. Pathways to Equity stands as our institutional guidepost for addressing and advancing our institutional mission through centering on diversity, equity and inclusion. Our complex institutional history coupled with our rich culture of students, faculty and staff striving for inclusive change has led us to the solidification of this institutional plan. Pathways to Equity works in concert with the university’s strategic plan to leverage university-wide, college/school-level and departmental transformative initiatives that cultivate a more diverse, equitable and inclusive campus.

With Pathways to Equity, the University of Mississippi aspires to achieve the following statements by the conclusion of this plan.

  1. The University of Mississippi consistently and comprehensively articulates diversity, equity and inclusion as essential in fulfilling the mission, vision and values of the institution.
  2. The University of Mississippi is organizationally and culturally equipped with the knowledge, skills and awareness to continue advancing diversity, equity and inclusion.
  3. A campus climate is fostered that ensures all individuals are valued, supported and feel a sense of belonging at the University of Mississippi.
  4. The University of Mississippi demonstrates reductions in disparities across underrepresented groups in the enrollment, retention and graduation rate at undergraduate and graduate levels.
  5. The number of underrepresented groups employed at the University of Mississippi is increased to reflect a talented and diverse workforce at all organizational levels especially tenure-track faculty, managerial positions and executive leadership positions.

Guiding Principles

The development of this plan requires us to address individual, social, organizational and systemic factors that create and sustain inequities that prevent all members of our community from fully participating and thriving. We view this as central to the mission of the University of Mississippi. As we embark on this journey together, we must commit to the following shared principles.

  1. Equity-mindedness[1] – We embrace the institutional responsibility and agency to actively address the challenges and disparate outcomes at all levels of our community. This requires us to be data-informed and connect best practices to generate high-impact change for underserved groups in our community.
  2. Institutional Accountability – We must ensure efforts outlined throughout Pathways to Equity are acknowledged in the established systems of recognition, performance and accountability. We must work to account for the advancement of these goals in our ideas of success, merit and reward. Further, we must account for, honor and recognize faculty, staff, administrators and students in their commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion.
  3. Transparency – In our execution of Pathways to Equity, our success is predicated on a highly accessible and collaborative process that actively involves university stakeholders to work as virtuous partners. To that end, we will consistently, publicly and broadly share our intended actions, goals and measurable impacts of this plan.
  4. Innovation – Actualizing diversity, equity and inclusion will require us to deeply examine and rethink our policies, practices and procedures at the University of Mississippi. Each unit and individual across campus is invited to offer new thoughts, ideas and perspectives as we thoughtfully consider ways to make our institution more equitable and inclusive through an intersectional lens. This disposition will create a community of learning, growth and development as we collectively engage in this complex work.
  5. Alignment of Critical Resources – During this planning process, we have navigated a global health pandemic that has shown the vulnerabilities in our systems that disparately affect underserved and under-resourced communities. As we continue to navigate these unprecedented times, we must not falter in our commitment to creating a more diverse, equitable and inclusive community. Instead, we must recognize that our commitment to equity is even more important today than ever. 

Overarching Goals

The following goals represent the University of Mississippi’s (UM) commitment to the advancement of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI).

  1. Advance Institutional Capacity for Equity
    Infrastructure, Information, Systems, Education and Processes
  2. Cultivate a Diverse and Equitable Community
    Recruiting, Retaining, Advancing and Succeeding
  3. Foster an Inclusive Campus Climate
    Support, Value and Belonging

These overarching goals represent interconnected priorities that apply to UM broadly, from our comprehensive divisions, down to individual teams. We aim to have all units see meaningful alignment of these goals with their work. We will ensure UM embraces the transformative nature of diversity, equity and inclusion across all levels of the institution, addressing challenges to DEI at every corner of our institution by combining contextual understanding with internal and external expertise.

Overview of School’s Equity-in-Action Plan

Engineers have played critical roles in many of the achievements that have advanced civilization. Over a decade ago, the National Academy of Engineers identified 14 global “grand challenges” for the coming century, and then center around the themes of sustainability, health, security and joy of living. Being able to help address these challenges draws on the altruistic nature of humans, and therefore students to pursue educational opportunities in engineering and computer science. It is incumbent on us to prepare the next generations of engineers and scientists for this endeavor, and this involves going beyond “simple” technical education. Solving global challenges of the 21st century requires diverse teams representing different backgrounds, perspectives and life experiences.

Abundant literature demonstrates that diversity plays a critical role in driving creativity and innovation and promoting deeper information processing and complex thinking.[2] These characteristics are important for addressing the grand challenges previously mentioned, but they are critical for industry. Encouraging different ideas and perspectives leads to the innovation that makes, and keeps, companies successful.[3] One author terms innovation at the intersection of ideas, concepts and cultures as the “Medici Effect,” in reference to the Medici family of the Renaissance.[4]

DEI is not intended to benefit only underrepresented populations, but the majority of students, faculty and staff will also profit from diverse engagement.[5] National and state demographics show an increasingly diverse population. For the U.S., the non-Hispanic white population is projected to drop below 50% by 2050, and as early as 2042 depending on the model, leaving no clear racial or ethnic majority. [6] For Mississippi, the white population is projected to decrease from 57% to 51% by 2050, and non-whites will make up 52% of high school graduates by 2032.[7],[8] Increased diversity across the university and workforce is vital, and within engineering and computer science, diversity of race, nationality, gender and socioeconomic status remain critical challenges. And as the flagship university of Mississippi, it is a moral imperative that the School of Engineering makes strides to better reflect the demographics of the state. Increasing diversity, though, is not sufficient; a diverse community, without commensurate equity and inclusiveness, will still not reach its potential.

The sections below outline how the School of Engineering plans to achieve its Equity-in-Action plan.

Engineering Diversity Planning Committee

The school’s Diversity Planning Committee is composed of members who embrace the concepts of diversity, equity and inclusion in their teaching, research and service activities.

  • Alexander Lopez, chair – assistant professor, Department of Chemical Engineering
  • Megan Miller, co-chair – assistant dean, Dean’s Office
  • Tyrus McCarty – associate professor and assistant chair, Department of Mechanical Engineering; assistant dean for special initiatives
  • Dawn Wilkins – professor and chair, Department of Computer and Information Science
  • Elsie Okoye – instructor, Department of Geology and Geological Engineering
  • Damian Stoddard – instructor, Department of Mechanical Engineering
  • Hakan Yasarer – assistant professor, Department of Civil Engineering

Strategic Activities 

Over the next five years, the School of Engineering will focus on the activities presented below. Success will require the participation of all members of the school, including faculty, staff and administrators, with each playing an important role in the implementation and successful execution of our plan. Responsibility ultimately lies within the Dean’s Office. Following the adage of “what gets measured gets done,” institutional and school-level data will be used semiannually to annually to track metrics and thereby assess progress.

Activity 1: Create diverse pipelines

  • Improve awareness among target populations of high school students about engineering, computer science and geology as career choices through K-12 outreach and recruitment initiatives, beginning with a pilot program partnering with one or two select schools that contain high populations of underserved students
  • Better engage with UM Outreach to provide high-quality pathway experiences, such as summer camps, summer college and K-12 school visits/demonstrations
  • Build an integrated recruitment strategy that includes targeted outreach to high school counselors, inviting STEM teachers from select high schools for campus visits while taking part in Center for Math and Science Education STEM excursions, offering special sessions at the MOST (Mississippi Outreach to Scholastic Talent) Conference, and support from Diversity and Community Engagement for marketing materials
  • Develop partnerships with community colleges, HBCUs, and other institutions for 2+2 articulation and 3+2 dual-degree agreements


  • Type and frequency of recruitment materials sent to prospective students, categorized by applicant demographics
  • Undergraduate and graduate student applications, selectivity and yield data by demographic group
  • 2+2 articulation and 3+2 dual-degree agreements in place with regional colleges and universities and HBCUs
  • Students entering the school through articulation and dual-degree agreements

Activity 2: Improve student persistence and success of target populations

  • Establish a Minority Engineering Program (MEP) that leverages ongoing efforts of the Improving Minority Access to Graduate Education (IMAGE) program run through the Louis Stokes Mississippi Alliance for Minority Participation (LSMAMP) program, including summer bridge, tutoring, collaborative study groups and professional development activities
  • Raise awareness of and use of the Academic Alert system to identify and then help at-risk students and increase retention
  • Develop students’ engineering identity through “future possible self” activities, including internships and research
  • Encourage and facilitate affiliation with a professional engineering society or other student organizations
  • Establish strong peer, faculty and alumni mentoring programs


  • GPA, time to graduation, and graduation rate by demographic group
  • Students involved in extracurricular and co-curricular experiences by demographic group
  • Number of students within the MEP
  • Number of students within formal mentoring programs

Activity 3: Engage with industry for outreach and to improve career readiness of targeted populations and connect committed employers with these populations

  • Establish an industry affiliates board to help with outreach/recruitment and philanthropic support for DEI initiatives
  • Work with industry partners to connect their representatives with local K-12 schools and UM student organizations and to develop deeper and sustainable relationships that can help yield STEM recruitment, diversity events, networking sessions, etiquette dinners, information sessions and technical talks suited for target audiences
  • Work with industry partners to establish dedicated spots for internships
  • Establish an industry mentorship network to support students and provide guidance for the students while in school and potentially lead to internships, co-ops and eventual full-time employment
  • Pursue external/industry funding to support student organizations and establish or sustain a long-term vision of MEP and underrepresented minority scholarships. Create a direct connection between the funding party and the recipient of the scholarship and/or student organization


  • Type and frequency of industry-engaged K-12 activities conducted or promoted throughout the year
  • Type and frequency of industry-engaged School of Engineering activities conducted throughout the year
  • Student participation in internships, co-ops, research opportunities and other exchanges

Activity 4: Improve DEI awareness through training for students, faculty and staff

  • Schedule a variety of training opportunities for relevant/key topics
  • Require microaggressions and implicit bias training for all faculty and staff and as part of the onboarding process for new hires
  • Promote awareness months, e.g., African American History and Hispanic Heritage, via targeted and intentional communications from the Dean’s Office staff via email and social media


  • Type and frequency of DEI events conducted or promoted throughout the year
  • Participation rates by group (students, faculty and staff) and by demographic

Activity 5: Establish practices to increase the diversity of faculty and staff hires with those who are committed to thriving in a DEI environment

  • Collect best practices for recruiting diverse faculty from other institutions, and create a faculty recruiting process that facilitates opportunities for faculty applicants from historically marginalized groups
  • Increase search committee training to focus on diversity and how to seek diverse applicants with appropriate language in job descriptions or postings
  • Identify diverse potential adjunct professors to teach special topics at the intersection of industry and the engineering curricula


  • Climate measures (students, faculty, staff) from climate studies, online surveys, exit surveys, student responses at forums/focus groups, etc.
    • For example: demographics of respondents; comfort with climate; experiences of exclusionary, intimidating, offensive and/or hostile conduct; consideration of leaving the university; and perceived academic success
  • Faculty applications, selectivity and employment by demographic group
  • Faculty retention and promotion by demographic group
  • Staff applications, selectivity and employment by demographic group




[1] Bensimon, E.M., Dowd, A.C., Witham, K. (2016). Five principles for enacting equity by design. Diversity and Democracy, The Equity Imperative. Winter 2016, Volume 19, No. 1.

[2] Galinsky AD, Todd AR, Homan AC, Phillips KW, Apfelbaum EP, Sasaki SJ, Richeson JA, Olayon JB, Maddux WW. Maximizing the gains and minimizing the pains of diversity: A policy perspective. Perspectives on Psychological Science 2015;10(6):742-8.

[3] Insights Forbes. Global diversity and inclusion: Fostering innovation through a diverse workforce. Forbes Insight, New York, 2011.

[4] Johansson, F. The Medici Effect: Breakthrough insights at the intersection of ideas, concepts & cultures, Harvard Business School Press, Boston, 2004.

[5] Does Diversity Make a Difference? Three Research Studies on Diversity in College Classrooms, American Council on Education and American Association of University Professors, Washington, DC 2000.

[6] Ortman, J.M. and Guarneri, C.E., United States Population Projections: 2000 to 2050, U.S. Census Bureau (PDF), accessed Sep. 39, 2020.

[7] The State Data Center of Mississippi (PDF), accessed Oct. 1, 2020.

[8] Knocking at the College Door, accessed Oct. 1, 2020.