Orange County Branch Newsletter
ASCE OC Publications
DEI Best Practices in Engineering: Expanding the K-12 Pipeline
By Marionne Lapitan, EIT, ENV SP | Publications Committee Editor-In-Chief
With the civil engineering profession becoming increasingly diverse, the ASCE OC Publications Committee discusses Part I of ASCE National's Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion: Best Practices in Engineering – Expanding the K-12 Pipeline . This topic addresses the value of expanding and reimagining the K-12 STEM and university systems necessary to prepare the next generation of engineers for the future world. Part II – Universal Design and Part III – Sustainability of the series will be featured in future ASCE OC Newsletters to promote the initiative at the local level. Below is the official video of Part I of the series:
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion: Expanding the K-12 Pipeline
As discussed in the video series, K-12 and University Outreach play a critical role in expanding Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) education to people from all backgrounds. 48% of post-millennials are the most racially and ethnically diverse generation in our nation’s history . However, a significant number of minorities are still underrepresented in the field of engineering, especially within leadership positions.
Being “STEM-prepared” across all populations was stated as a mandatory factor in staying competitive in the global market. However, the lack of access to STEM resources in low-income neighborhoods presents a huge challenge for underrepresented students to envision themselves in roles within STEM careers. The historically white and male-dominated industry shows a homogeneous point of view, while underserved communities are seen as “statistically improbable” in even becoming a part of the industry.
Developing a critical eye to social justice in the STEM field will create a massive impact in expanding the conversation to people of color and the youth in academia. Organizations like ASCE, Great Minds in STEM, and Viva Technology Program are essential in linking the pathway to an engineering career path and creating programs that illustrate the realistic possibilities of a diverse population of STEM leaders.
It establishes a wide range of opportunities accessible to underrepresented groups. Entering the pipeline becomes probable and will prepare students from all communities with the proper resources to face tomorrow’s challenges. By bringing forward a diversity of faces and experiences, innovation in design and technology represents the whole community, not just a portion of it.
Nurturing and Growing STEM Interest Locally
At the local level, ASCE Branches, Younger Member Forums, and Student Chapters have developed programs that expand the K-12 pipeline by introducing STEM and civil engineering as possible career options. Below are some local annual K-12 and University Outreach initiatives that bring forth the opportunities available in the profession while also giving light to the conversation of diversity and representation.
The Popsicle Stick Bridge Competition (PSBC) is an educational competition between local high school students throughout Southern California hosted biannually by the ASCE Los Angeles, Orange County, and San Bernardino/Riverside Younger Member Forums (YMF). Hundreds of local high school students participate in a full day of competition to exhibit their engineering knowledge. They receive mentorship from their teachers and local engineers. Overall, the event celebrates and unites the STEM community annually.
Inspired by ASCE's documentary film, Dream Big, ASCE CSULB created Dream Big: A K-12 Civil Engineering Outreach Event in the Fall of 2018 to encourage young students to pursue a career in civil engineering. As one of the event's co-founders, Dream Big inspires K-12 students from the Los Angeles and Orange County area to foresee STEM as an option through various workshops, team-building activities, a professional panel, and of course, streaming the Dream Big movie itself. The fifth installment of the event will occur this Fall 2022!
Established in 2019, the ASCE Orange County YMF Pathways Academy is a three-part summer program that introduces university students to the various civil engineering disciplines through our "Engineering Your Future" Speaker Series, office tour seminars, and valuable professional networking opportunities. This program aims to give students a sneak peek of what it's like to work in the civil engineering industry in a fun, unique, and intimate setting. It bridges the gap between academia and industry by encouraging students to explore all their potential career options.
ASCE Los Angeles YMF’s Engineer’s Week features five days in the Los Angeles area dedicated to introducing students of all levels to local branches of government and various engineering fields. Its goal is to educate students about how their communities were built upon and created and inspire them with future possibilities of helping to change their built environment positively!
As a young engineer in the civil engineering industry, I represent three minority groups: women, immigrants, and people of color. It is a role I did not anticipate playing growing up, but an opportunity I learned to embrace as I embarked on this journey. The voices I represent in the industry are often underrepresented. By taking space, I learned that showing up as a triple minority provides a crucial perspective in developing projects to improve society for the next generation.
- In my first 2.5 years as a full-time engineer, I was the only woman in my group.
- When I was in college, I was typically 1 out of 2 or 3 women in the class.
- In my family, I am the only girl out of all my maternal cousins.
Although it sounds like I should be used to being the only woman in a room full of men, you can never get used to the moments where being a woman feels like a disadvantage. The reality is that the shortage of women in the industry does not always facilitate the fundamental conversations that should represent a woman’s standpoint. With this, I learned that a diverse gender representation within leadership positions and upper management is critical to increasing gender equality in the industry. It allows for mentoring of young professionals, promotes more opportunities to learn from others with the shared experience, and continually encourages future leaders to consider gender equity in succession planning.
- I was born and raised in the Philippines.
Being a Filipino engineer in America, I could not always relate to my peers’ childhood. I did not watch all the same TV shows or learned certain basic concepts at school in the same way. However, what was unique about my experience was that I had a story to tell. I heard about other people’s stories, while getting the opportunity to tell my own. In the industry, I learned that being different does not mean what you can do as an engineer is any different. Our work still and must serve everybody, regardless of our racial or ethnic background. It also means I can relate to more people with similar experiences.
This past March 2022, during Women’s History Month and Engineers’ Week, I had the opportunity to share my experience with a group of middle school girls at the American Association of University Women (AAUW) and Female Leadership Academy’s STEM Conference at Eunice Sato Academy of Math and Science High School in Long Beach. Being asked to be a speaker for this event held close to my heart as I am an alumnus of Long Beach Unified School District (LBUSD) schools, but it also allowed me to share my story as a woman and person of color in the industry. Seeing the students' faces learning about STEM and its possibilities was priceless.
Being a minority in the infrastructure profession, the space I take and my role affects the communities my projects serve. This personal attribute diversifies the trade and considers a varied point of view to the table. Through this, the industry can continue to bridge technology to reality and recognize essential solutions to move society forward. An opportunity that I can only hope to help fulfill and expand for future minorities in STEM.
If you or someone you know is interested in expanding their K-12 and University Outreach through ASCE OC, please feel free to contact our committees via our website.
 Narrated by Yvette E. Pearson, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion: Best Practices in Engineering Part 1 | Expanding the K12 Pipeline, American Society of Civil Engineers, 1 Dec. 2021, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cEqBTJdlS5I.
 Fry, Richard, and Kim Parker. “Early Benchmarks Show 'Post-Millennials' on Track to Be Most Diverse, Best-Educated Generation Yet.” Pew Research Center's Social & Demographic Trends Project, Pew Research Center, 14 Aug. 2020, https://www.pewresearch.org/social-trends/2018/11/15/early-benchmarks-show-post-millennials-on-track-to-be-most-diverse-best-educated-generation-yet/.
About the Author:
Marionne Lapitan is a Civil Associate in the Traffic/ITS Department at Michael Baker International. She is currently the ASCE OC Publications Committee Editor-In-Chief and the ASCE OC YMF Communications Committee Co-Chair. Actively involved in various professional organizations, she is passionate about designing and building communities, both structurally and socially. She aims to make a difference in the world through civil engineering in hopes of building a brighter future for the next generation. She also enjoys traveling, graphic designing, and reading books in her free time. Marionne can be contacted via [email protected] or LinkedIn.