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Broadening Participation in Engineering  (BPE)


Name Email Phone Room
James  Moore jamoore@nsf.gov (703) - 292 - 7082   


Apply to PD 14-7680 as follows:

For full proposals submitted via FastLane: standard Grant Proposal Guide proposal preparation guidelines apply.
For full proposals submitted via Grants.gov: the NSF Grants.gov Application Guide; A Guide for the Preparation and Submission of NSF Applications via Grants.gov Guidelines applies. (Note: The NSF Grants.gov Application Guide is available on the Grants.gov website and on the NSF website at: http://www.nsf.gov/publications/pub_summ.jsp?ods_key=grantsgovguide)

Important Information for Proposers

A revised version of the NSF Proposal & Award Policies & Procedures Guide (PAPPG) (NSF 16-1), is effective for proposals submitted, or due, on or after January 25, 2016. Please be advised that, depending on the specified due date, the guidelines contained in NSF 16-1 may apply to proposals submitted in response to this funding opportunity.


The Broadening Participation in Engineering (BPE) Program is a Directorate-wide initiative dedicated to supporting the development of a diverse and well-prepared workforce of engineering graduates. The Broadening Participation in Engineering Program supports projects to engage and develop diverse teams that can offer unique perspectives and insights to challenges associated with increasing diversity in engineering research and education. In FY 2015, the Broadening Participation in Engineering program is supporting research on issues associated with diversity within the engineering professoriate, with a particular interest in funding proposals focusing on underrepresented racial and ethnic minorities.

The 2010 Census provides a snapshot of the demographics for United States citizens. Hispanic Americans are at 16% of the US population; African Americans constitute 13.6%, American Indians/Alaskan Natives represent 1.7%, and Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders are at 0.4%. In aggregate, racial/ethnic minorities make up 31.7% of the US population. According to data collected by the American Society for Engineering Education, in 2013, under-represented racial/ethnic minorities constitute 6.4% of all faculties, across all professional levels and all 345 engineering degree granting institutions. The diversity of engineering faculty ranks is significantly smaller particularly at advanced faculty ranks. Under-represented racial/ethnic minorities constitute 7.6% of all assistant professors, 7.8% of associate professors and 3.75% of full professors.

As shown, the status of under-represented ethnic/racial minority groups within various levels of faculty fall far short of their level of representation in the general population. In 2004, 5.7% of the engineering faculties were members of an under-represented group. While the increase to 6.4% in 2013 does indicate some progress, these numbers have changed only marginally in the last decade. More specifically, 408 engineering doctoral degrees were awarded to members of this target demographic in 2012, however the number of assistant professors only increased by 28 (from 411 to 439)[1]. The majority of those earning doctoral degrees are not becoming engineering faculty.

With the clear national focus and emphasis on the need to diversify our engineering workforce, it is critical to consider how to effect a comprehensive change in diversity within the academic ranks. Faculty are extremely important when considering the mentoring role they provide for engineering students. Faculty serve as role models for students and often take a lead role in advancing diversity both within their own ranks and in the undergraduate and graduate engineering student populations.

The Directorate for Engineering (ENG) recognizes that broadening participation is a systemic issue, with a need for wide-ranging and comprehensive interventions at all levels of the educational system. By approaching and analyzing problems in different ways a diverse workforce can encourage innovation and scientific breakthroughs. In alignment with the goals of ENG with other programs in the Division of Engineering Education and Centers, the BPE Program recognizes the importance of:

  • understanding how a diverse engineering faculty impacts engineering education, innovation and productivity;
  • the underlying issues affecting the differential participation rates in engineering degree attainment;
  • the varied experiences and interactions that enhance or inhibit the persistence of different underrepresented groups to terminal degree and career interest in the professoriate.

BPE project activities should be informed by the body of knowledge that surrounds these (and other) important research questions; and, in turn, add to that knowledge base (citations relevant to research on engineering faculty diversity are provided below). Given the breadth of targeted groups, it is expected that all institutions have at least one, if not more, targeted demographic where they could propose a strategy for improving diversity. A successful proposal would therefore provide appropriate benchmark data to support selection of the targeted group(s) with specific and applicable objectives, demonstrate appropiate knowledge of the relevant literature on underrepresentation and describe a clear strategy for improving representation. All projects should integrate assessment and evaluation protocols capable of measuring how well they achieve their stated objectives as part of the project management plans. The effectiveness of the proposed evaluation is one aspect of a project’s intellectual merit. Similarly, there should be evidence of clear, measureable outcomes and consideration of how the strategy will work for disparate institutions.

The Broadening Participation in Engineering program is interested in reviewing projects that will address how to achieve significant increases in the participation and professional success, leading to improved retention of under-represented ethnic/racial minorities within the ranks of our engineering faculties. Of particular interest are projects that increase our understanding of the inherent challenges faced by members of underrepresented ethnic and racial groups in the attainment of engineering doctoral degrees and achieving success as an early career engineering faculty member.

It is expected that proposed projects would advance our knowledge of this field in many ways. For example, what can be done to increase selection of, and opportunities for entering, academia as a career choice for these populations? Are there specific aspects to a faculty position or career that serve as impediments to the full participation of these under-represented groups? How do cultural norms affect advancement; what cultural interventions and policy (institutional and public policy) mechanisms might be most effective in changing outcomes? What are the development opportunities for those intending to pursue or already employed in an engineering faculty track, which allow them to engage with, learn from, and network with diverse individuals and groups in ways that will demonstrably enhance their long term career success?

Before submitting a proposal to the BPE program, potential PIs are strongly encouraged to speak to the program officer to obtain guidance as to whether the ideas represented in the proposal align with the strategic goals of the Broadening Participation in Engineering program. It is strongly recommended that proposals be submitted to the Broadening Participation program not later than April 10, 2015 for FY 2015 funding.

Relevant Literature

  1. Fries-Britt, S. L., Rowan-Kenyon, H. T., Perna, L. W., Milem, J. F., & Howard, D. G. (2011). Underrepresentation in the academy and the institutional climate for faculty diversity. Journal of the Professoriate, 5(1), 1-34.
  2. Kaminski, D., & Geisler, C. (2012). Survival analysis of faculty retention in science and engineering by gender. Science, 335(6070), 864-866.
  3. Leggon, C. B. (2010). Diversifying science and engineering faculties: intersections of race, ethnicity, and gender. American Behavioral Scientist,53(7), 1013-1028.
  4. Tapia, R. (2010). Hiring and developing minority faculty at research universities. Communications of the ACM, 53(3), 33-35.

[1] This is FTE for the given year and does not account for faculty that may have been promoted from assistant to associate or those who may have left the academy. If even ¼ of those earning doctorates had joined engineering faculties, this would result in an almost 25% increase in the representation (ASEE 2013 Data)

Display additional information


Proposal and Award Policies and Procedures Guide, January 2013 (NSF 13-001)


What Has Been Funded (Recent Awards Made Through This Program, with Abstracts)

Map of Recent Awards Made Through This Program


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