Toward Radical Change: Using Critical Perspectives to Investigate and Enact Equity in Design & Engineering Education / Challenging Oppressive Norms in First-Year Engineering Education Through Asset-Based Pedagogical Approaches

Presenter: Kaylla Cantilina

Using Critical Perspectives to Investigate and Enact Equity in Design & Engineering Education
Description: While design has facilitated the technical advancements that shape our every-day lives, it has also exacerbated existing social inequities and created new ones as well. This tension is increasingly being explored in engineering education through implementing curricular and cocurricular community engaged design experiences. However, if not conducted and managed with an intentional focus on equity, these engaged learning experiences risk exploiting stakeholders and exacerbating existing inequities. In the first part of this talk, I will discuss how critical perspectives —ideologies and theories that challenge social practices and beliefs— are a useful tool to understanding dimensions of inequities and can inform strategies for radical change. I will present my research on using critical theory: Intersectionality’s Domains of Power and Agency theory, to examine factors beyond student deficits that lead to inequitable outcomes for community engaged design experiences in engineering higher education.

Challenging Oppressive Norms in First-Year Engineering Education Through Asset-Based Pedagogical Approaches
DescriptionThough the engineering education field has advanced significantly beyond its White patriarchal origins, many of the teaching approaches in engineering education remain oppressive in nature to minoritized students. Deficit based teaching is one oppressive approach that posits students as having empty minds that must be filled with technical knowledge and has both equity and engagement implications. It forces students to leave their identities, interests, and culture outside of the classroom leaving minoritized students with only two options: to assimilate into the White dominant engineering culture, or leave the field entirely. In the second part of this talk, I will discuss how I combat this through alternative asset-based teaching approaches in my own first-year engineering classroom. I aim for these approaches to return fun and excitement to engineering design education, and a deep sense of belonging to support holistic success in my students.

Bio: Kaylla Cantilina is a PhD candidate in the Department of Integrative Systems + Design at the University of Michigan’s College of Engineering (spring 2023 doctoral completion). An artist turned engineer, she holds degrees from the University of Michigan in Industrial and Operations Engineering (M.S.), Design Science (M.S.), Industrial Design (B.A.), and Political Science (B.A.), as well as a graduate certificate in Engineering Education Research. With this interdisciplinary background, she specializes in research and teaching at the intersection of engineering and social science, and is motivated by design as a means for social justice. Her work in and outside of the classroom explores the ways that students and educators seek to achieve equity through design processes, education, and outcomes. The goals of her work are to 1) challenge White supremacist ideologies and practices that maintain inequities and injustice in design and engineering education through the application of critical theories as analytical frameworks, and 2) to develop tools and pedagogy to advance equity by centering the needs of minoritized students and communities. In addition to her doctoral work, Kaylla is also a Graduate Facilitator and Makerspace Manager at UofM’s Center for Socially Engaged Design, an Engaged Learning Consultant at UofM’s Ginsberg Center for Community Service and Learning, and an adjunct lecturer at Eastern Michigan University’s Department of Mechanical Engineering. 

Hosted by: Baskin Engineering

Zoom link:

Wednesday, March 15, 2023 at 10:00am to 11:00am

Engineering 2, E2 475
Engineering 2 1156 High Street, Santa Cruz, California 95064

Event Type

Lectures & Presentations

Invited Audience

Alumni, Faculty & Staff, Students, Graduate Students


Science & Technology

Baskin School of Engineering
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