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A Time for a Renewed Commitment to Advocacy and Activism :A Call for the Activist Engineer

21 Feb 2024 10:25 AM | Ali Kucukozyigit (Administrator)

by Woodrow W. Winchester, III, PhD, CPEM

2024 Black History Month:  A Time for a Renewed Commitment to Advocacy and Activism

A Call for the Activist Engineer

In my 2023 Black History Month (BHM) blog, I celebrated the remarkable strides made by Black engineers who are not only challenging but actively dismantling "engineered oppression." These visionary individuals are not content with the status quo; they are forging new paths toward a future where technological innovation is synonymous with inclusivity, equity, and justice. However, as we mark this year's celebration, we cannot ignore the political challenges that threaten to derail our progress in realizing a positive technological future for all.

From contentious court rulings to legislation banning DE/I concepts in higher education, the very principles we, ASEM, champion – diversity, equity, and inclusion – are being challenged, necessitating a renewed call to action. The opposition to DE/I initiatives, now fueled by corporate criticism, demands a strategic and united response.

Enter Activist Engineering, as a countermeasure.  As outlined in Activist Engineering: Changing Engineering Practice by Deploying Praxis, this paradigm shift in engineering practice challenges the status quo by exposing the political and value-based nature of engineering. It emphasizes the importance of applying socioecological learning to technological design, urging engineers to broaden their perspectives and consider the broader impact of their work.

Activist Engineering is more than just an approach to engineering; it's a mindset that demands self-reflection and introspection. Reflexivity lies at its is core.  Engineers are called upon to critically examine their motives and the consequences of their decisions and actions. By embracing moments of pause and introspection, engineers can cultivate a heightened awareness of their role in perpetuating systemic injustices and oppression, thereby paving the way for more holistic and just engineering and engineering management practices.

As I emphasized in my December 2021 ASEM Blog, reflection is undervalued in engineering.  Creating space for introspection must be prioritized, recognizing that meaningful change begins with self-awareness and critical reflection. As we celebrate Black History Month, let us rededicate ourselves to the principles of DE/I, ensuring that engineering, as both a discipline and profession, is reflective and responsive to the full diversity of humanity. 

Together, through continued activism and advocacy, we can chart a course towards a more equitable and socially responsible technological future. Let us commit to Activist Engineering, leveraging our collective voices to interrogate and dismantle barriers and construct a brighter engineering and engineering management future for all.

About the Author

As the inaugural director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DE/I) for the American Society for Engineering Management (ASEM), Dr Woodrow serves as the executive director of The University of Texas at Austin Texas Engineering Executive Education (TxEEE).  He is a Certified Professional Engineering Management Professional (CPEM) with over ten (10) years of technical program and project management experiences.  A proven thought leader in advocating for and advancing the development of more equitable, inclusive, and just approaches to technological innovation and management, Winchester was recently recognized by the Cockrell School of Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin for his contributions to equity in engineering. 

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