The DEI Case Study Initiative develops original case studies for engineering courses that highlight the impact of engineering work on engineers and the broader society – based on real-world histories closely connected to any engineering subject.

To integrate engineering case studies into their courses, faculty will work directly with C-SED and CRLT-Engin. Ready to get started?  Reach out to

What is this project?

We partner with CoE faculty to conceptualize and implement DEI case studies for their undergraduate engineering courses. Our team of case study authors develops and supports the delivery of original content that explores the intersection of technical and social issues in engineering. We draw case topics from professional engineering practice, engineering education, and the history of technology and society. While case-based learning itself is not new, our approach is unique in identifying case topics specific to each faculty partner’s disciplinary focus and translating those examples into DEI pedagogy that explicitly explores dimensions of equity-centered engineering. 

Why use case studies?

Our approach is designed to avoid “othering” DEI topics in engineering spaces and to help students recognize that equity and inclusion are integral to excellence in their academic and professional work as engineers. Cases explore issues of identity, power, and privilege embedded in engineering processes and provide opportunities to analyze the impacts of solutions on people and the environment. 

What current cases exist?

There are currently 13 case studies across three primary types:

  • Global DEI cases explore the intersection of identity, power, and privilege in engineering work processes and outcomes.
  • Local DEI cases explore interpersonal relationships and structures within engineering work and educational environments. 
  • Historical DEI cases explore the structural roots of inequities in engineering education and practice.

To integrate engineering case studies into their courses, faculty will work directly with C-SED and CRLT-Engin. Ready to get started?  Reach out to

How are DEI case studies integrated into engineering courses?

Past faculty partners have used DEI cases in contexts ranging from first-year engineering sections to senior design courses. Cases can take the form of short reading/reflection assignments, full-length Canvas modules, or interactive workshops. For example:

  • First-years in a Industrial Operations-themed Introduction to Engineering section explored biases embedded in smart shelf technology, analyzed disparities in the potential impacts of cashless payment systems and targeted advertising, and reflected on how their own lenses informed their understanding of the case.
  • Juniors in Computer Science explored how design decisions made by Airbnb’s founders unintentionally facilitated racial discriminiation on the platform and analyzed the extent to which Airbnb has meaningfully addressed the underlying issues by introducing new policies, updating its algorithm, and committing to increasing diversity on its teams.
  • Seniors in a Chemical Engineering product design course explored the process by which L’Oreal chemist Balanda Atis’ developed innovative cosmetic formulations for people of color and reflected on how structural inequities at L’Oreal have impacted its employees and end users.
  • Juniors and seniors in a Mechanical Engineering elective explored the contributions of 19th/20th engineer Elijah McCoy to the field of automatic lubrication technology, analyzed how issues of race and racism are represented in biographical accounts, and reflected on why nuance is important in telling the stories of marginalized engineers.

What is the history of this project?

Funded through a grant from the Associate Dean for Undergraduate Education in 2019, the Center for Socially Engaged Design (C-SED) has built a library of case studies that span historical, local, and global contexts. Further investment by the College in Fall of 2021 enabled this work to continue and expand. In July 2022 C-SED collaborated with CRLT-Engin to co-power the DEI Case Study Initiative to bring together a wider span of expertise and support for faculty to integrate concepts of DEI into the classroom.

Anticipated future work (and timeline):

Over the next 3 years (2022-2025) CRLT-Engin and C-SED aim to collaborate with College of Engineering faculty to integrate DEI engineering case studies into courses, co-develop new cases in the technical domain of instructor courses, and collect input from faculty regarding the integration of cases. One goal is to ensure the case studies represent the diversity of topics across all CoE departments. It is also important that the pedagogy used in the courses is equity-focused, so CRLT-Engin teaching circles will be available for faculty to discuss best approaches.


Join Our Newsletter

Sign up for updates on our programs and offerings. We promise not to share your information.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.