More than 30 Years of Engagement for Ohio's Public Good

Insights, Practices, and Opportunities for Increasing Access to Community-based High Impact Learning

Kelly Bohrer, Executive Director of the Ethos Center and the Director of Community Engagement, Dr. Margie Pinnell, Interim Dean Dr. Kenya Crosson, Interim Associate Dean for Faculty Development, & Dr. Gerica Brown, Director of the Multi-Ethnic Engineering Program from the School of Engineering, University of Dayton

Universities across the US have increased high-impact learning opportunities for undergraduate students over the past two decades. There is much evidence that these high-impact learning opportunities, like community-engaged learning and internships, lead to better outcomes for academic content learning, sociocultural learning, professional skills, communication skills, and even the development of one’s vocational path (career planning). Unfortunately, there is also an awareness that such learning opportunities outside of the classroom are not equitably accessible for many students, especially students from minoritized groups (BIPOC, multi-ethnic, etc.). It is thought that the reasons for this could be due to a multitude of factors, including financial ability to participate (either or both affording the program or “affording” the loss of income from a job), awareness of program application processes, belief in one’s ability to be accepted into and be successful in the program, discomfort with the possibility of being the lone person of color within the learning environment, fear of racist tensions from the learning environment, fear of being accepted by others, etc.

The pattern of low numbers of minoritized students participating in high-impact, non-classroom-based experiential learning is noticeable at the University of Dayton, including in our keystone community-based global learning opportunity for engineering students – the ETHOS immersion program. This program has existed since 2001 when it began as an immersion program with one community partner in another country. Since then the ETHOS immersion program has grown with opportunities for students to immerse with multiple community partners in multiple countries, including now also in the US and, more specifically, in Dayton.

In 2018, the School of Engineering created the Director of Community Engagement position. One of the functions of this new professional staff person was to grow the domestic and Dayton immersion program. To ensure that the newly developing partnerships and immersion opportunities were seen as accessible to multi-ethnic engineering students, the Ethos Center collaborated with the Diversity in Engineering Center to determine the best strategies for equitable access. Together they developed a few different approaches to try to address many of the potential barriers to participation (as noted above). This included having the Ethos Center participate as an “internship provider/company” in the “Industry Partner Meet and Greet” for the Multi-Ethnic Engineering students, co-presenting with a local community partner (run by those who identify as BIPOC) during the Minority Engineering Workshops for Sophomores, getting involved in the “Inclusion and Diversity in Education Abroad” committee to develop resources for minoritized students considering international immersions, ensuring that Dayton and domestic immersion experiences covered all living expenses for students, and developing more partnerships with organizations run by or heavily staff by people of color.

During this presentation, we’ll share the approaches we developed and are using, the results of this work, and we may also have initial results from focus groups we hope to engage in beginning this summer.

Connect with Presenters: kbohrer1@udayton,,,


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