Rurality as an Asset for Inclusive Teaching in Chemical Engineering


  • Jamie Gomez University of New Mexico,
  • Vanessa Svihla University of New Mexico


Design learning, Rurality, Project-based learning, Culturally-responsive teaching (CRT)


We developed and tested a pedagogical strategy—asset-based design challenges—to enhance diversity in early chemical engineering coursework. Using qualitative methods, we found first-year students justified high-cost solutions with ethical arguments; teams that included rural expertise argued instead for economically-viable solutions. In the sophomore class, students used cost and environmental impact to make decisions about rural concerns. These findings demonstrate that students learned from their rural peers and leveraged this information as they made design decisions.

Author Biographies

Jamie Gomez, University of New Mexico,


 Dr. Jamie Gomez is a Lecturer III in the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering at the University of New Mexico where she teaches the Material and Energy Balances, Transport Phenomena Laboratory and Process Design courses. She is a recipient of the 2017 ASEE Chemical Engineering Summer School Best Poster awards and serves as the local AIChE student chapter advisor. Some of her current research interests include supporting diverse engineering teams, engineering design pedagogy and the development of techno-economic models in the renewable energy area. As part of the FACETS (Formation of Accomplished Chemical Engineers for Transforming Society) team and core faculty, she has implemented new collaborative learning strategies to enhance student expert thinking in the classroom. She received her BS and PhD from Florida A&M University at the joint FAMU-FSU College of Engineering with energy research under NSF’s Future Renewable Electric Energy Delivery and Management (FREEDM) Systems Center.

Vanessa Svihla, University of New Mexico


 Dr. Vanessa Svihla is an assistant professor at the University of New Mexico. She holds appointments in Organization, Information & Learning Sciences and Chemical & Biological Engineering. As a learning scientist, her research focuses on how people learn when they design. She is particularly interested in how people find and frame problems, and how these activities relate to innovation and creativity. She directs the Interaction and Disciplinary Design in Educational Activity (IDDEA) Lab and serves as co-PI on the FACETS (Formation of Accomplished Chemical Engineers for Transforming Society). Her research has been supported by the NSF, NIH and the USDA, and she was selected as a 2014 National Academy of Education / Spencer Postdoctoral Scholar. Dr. Svihla received her MS (Geology) and PhD (Science Education) from The University of Texas at Austin. She served in the Peace Corps and was a post-doctoral scholar at UC Berkeley.