Promoting Diversity in Engineering: A Deep Dive with Sheryl Ehrman

by | Apr 4, 2023 | Academics

The Charles W. Davidson College of Engineering consistently ranks as one of the best engineering programs in the country. Dean Sheryl Ehrman provides insights into what makes the college so successful and how she is emphasizing making the engineering field more diverse and inclusive.

The College of Engineering is the #3 Best Undergraduate Engineering Program among Public Universities in the country according to U.S. News and World Report. What do you believe sets SJSU’s engineering college apart?

Sheryl Ehrman (SE): The hands-on experience that the College of Engineering offers students is unique. The students are taught by both tenure track and tenured faculty and Silicon Valley professionals who teach on a part-time basis, bringing their real world experience directly into our classrooms and laboratories. 

Sheryl Ehrman

Ehrman has served as the Don Beal Dean of the Charles W. Davidson College of Engineering since 2017.

We are constantly demonstrating that the College of Engineering is not only an educational institutional destination, but also a hub for research and innovation. The College of Engineering is increasing our impact on Silicon Valley and strives to bring emerging technology and concepts into the classroom.

Engineering is often viewed as a male-dominated field. Have you seen a shift toward more women joining the field? As dean, how do you try to encourage more women to become engineers?

(SE): Currently, women are the minority not only in the classroom, but also in the engineering professional world. The College of Engineering is always trying to increase women’s representation in industry by encouraging recruitment of engineering students by Silicon Valley companies. We want to see more women in the field of aviation, among other disciplines. We also host a Women in Engineering (WiE) conference every year to give female engineering students and professionals a platform to connect, learn and be inspired by other women in the field. 

The College of Engineering supports our Society of Women Engineers (SWE) student chapter and Alpha Omega Epsilon engineering sorority. Additionally, our MESA Engineering Program (MEP) is dedicated to increasing the number of qualified students from underserved groups, like women, to complete degrees in engineering, computer science and other disciplines at San José State University. 

The annual WiE Conference was held on March 18. How has that event evolved or grown over the past few years, and what were the highlights for you from this year’s event?

Students poses for a picture at WiE conference

The annual Women in Engineering Conference provides female engineering students and professionals a platform to connect, learn and be inspired by other women in the field. Photo: Derrick Meyer.

(SE): The WiE conference has grown over the years to encourage networking, learning and perhaps finding mentors for students at the College of Engineering and beyond. The 2023 conference was the first time the event was in person since COVID-19 hit the world, so everyone attending was excited to be able to come together and celebrate women in engineering face-to-face.

In February, the Black Engineer exhibit provided an opportunity to showcase diversity and achievement of Black Spartan engineers. How does the college promote opportunities for historically underrepresented groups to pursue a career in engineering, something they may otherwise have not thought was achievable?

(SE): The College of Engineering provides a tremendous amount of support through clubs such as the Black Alliance of Scientists and Engineers (BASE), Society of Asian Scientists and Engineers (SASE) and the Society of Latino/a Engineers and Scientists (SOLES), encouraging the utilization of the MESA program and helping navigating the different disciplines the College of Engineering has to offer.

President Cynthia Teniente-Matson met with students at the Black Engineers, Scientists, and Technologists Awards and Exhibit at the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Library in February to celebrate, recognize and pay tribute to the achievements of Black professionals in these fields. Photo: Jim Gensheimer.

Most importantly, the CoE cultivates a sense of belonging. This is a very important factor for those students who are thinking about a career in engineering and which institution to pick for the engineering education. We also encourage students to learn from successful alumni at talks such as Silicon Valley Leadership Symposium and the Dean’s Conversations.   

What exciting research or opportunities are present in the College of Engineering this semester?

(SE): The College of Engineering is a part of the San José State University research and innovation community. Technologies like robotic exoskeletons, quantum computing, synthetic heart valves and so much more are a part of what the College of Engineering is involved with. The faculty, along with undergraduate and graduate students are all a part of the college’s research and innovation efforts.

Learn more about the Charles W. Davidson College of Engineering.