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Professor Locke and MSE alumnus Jackson Pope experience transformational benefits of leadership class as published in JOM


Materials science and engineering professor Jenifer Locke was the editor of an article about DEI in the September issue of JOM (Vol. 73, No 9, 2021).

The article describes the impact of the College of Engineering's leadership course which focuses on gender equity and inclusive leadership in engineering. The one-credit course, Inclusive Leadership Practice of Emerging Professionals, is taught by Lisa Abrams, associate chair and professor of practice in the Department of Engineering Education. Locke, Abrams and former student Jackson Pope (2016) share how skills learned in the interactive course transfer to real-world situations.

Initiatives to attract and retain women in STEM fields are gaining momentum. As a woman in higher education, Professor Locke has experienced and witnessed inequities inherent with most STEM fields, but she is hopeful that courses like Abrams' will continue to produce allies who promote social justice. The approach used in Abrams' class capitalizes on the male majority by enabling them to become allies for women and other underrepresented people, whether they are a fellow student, colleague or professor. The supportive presence of an ally has power - to mitigate dissension, to eliminate biases, to promote collective results that are fruitful. 

Jackson Pope took Professor Abrams' course during his senior year as a materials science and engineering student. Fourteen weeks of discussions and workshops trained him to recognize injustices stemming from the  gender imbalance in engineering fields. Pope applied these skills as an undergraduate research assistant in Professor Locke's lab. Locke saw Pope subtly become a peer mentor. She saw him advocate for his professor, convincing males students to not discount her knowledge, experience and instructions. And his leadership skills facilitated a more productive, amenable climate between a postdoc and graduate student of opposite sexes. And Pope gained a skillset with lifelong benefits.

The power of a 14-week, 1-credit course can make a world of difference, especially when it prevents one less woman from leaving the field of engineering.

Jackson Pope graduated with a B.S. in materials science and engineering in 2016. He is currently a graduate student at the University of Colorado Boulder.

Click here to read the downloadable JOM article, Reflections from a Male Engineering Student Ally, His Professor, and His Advisor by Jenifer (Warner) Locke, Jackson Pope, and Lisa M Abrams.