This article is published in the August 2017 issue.

Expanding the Pipeline – WEPAN’S 2017 Change Leader Forum: Creating the Mindset for Action

The Women in Engineering ProActive Network (WEPAN) held the 2017 Change Leader Forum in Westminster, Colorado from June 12 – 14, 2017.  The Forum provided attendees an unparalleled opportunity to engage with diversity and inclusion advocates, and learn research based best-practices related to gender equity and inclusion in engineering.  Nearly 200 attendees representing a variety of institutions and roles participated in the Forum, including university leaders, corporate partners, engineering faculty, K-12 teachers, and academic diversity officers.

Organized around the Framework for Promoting Gender Equity in Organizations, the annual WEPAN Change Leader Forum offered many ways for participants to interact with experts and like-minded individuals from the academic, corporate, government and non-profit sectors. Creating the Mindset for Action, the 2017 Forum theme, inspired attendees to take action and make real progress in advancing cultural change and responsibility within their own organizations and institutions.

Sessions were offered for novice and expert attendees across four distinct tracks:

Activating a Growth Mindset in Students

Building Cultural Competence & Responsibility in Communities

Creating Inclusive Classroom, Departmental and College Environments

Supporting the College to Workforce Pathway

Presenters shared experiences and best practices through panel discussions, workshops, Hi-Fives for Change talks, and showcase presentations. The Forum also featured several keynote sessions and the WEPAN annual awards luncheon.  New for 2017 was the addition of pre-conference workshops that offer participants an in-depth learning opportunity in four different areas.

The Forum began on Monday, June 12 with four well-attended pre-conference workshops which gave participants tools to enact change at their home institutions.  “Men Allies for Gender Equity” presented by Roger Green (North Dakota State University) equipped men to serve as effective allies for gender equity in STEM settings. Tricia Berry (University of Texas at Austin) presented “Running an Effective “Girl Day” Outreach Program” which shared best practices and lessons learned from UTWEP’s award-winning Girl Day program.  “Cultivating Communities of Support and Success Through Mentorship and Leadership” facilitated by Paige Smith, Elizabeth Kurban, and Cinthya Salazar (all from University of Maryland) along with Catherine Amelink (Virginia Tech) inspired attendees to create opportunities for mentorship and leadership within living and learning communities.  Finally, “Realizing Potential with Mindset” presented by Meagan Pollock (National Alliance for Partnerships in Equity) provided attendees with a toolkit with specific strategies to use in the classroom in order to foster a growth mindset in themselves and in their students.

The Forum officially kicked-off on Monday afternoon with the opening keynote panel presentation “A Research Agenda on Gender in Engineering and Computing”, featuring panelists Kathleen Buse (Case Western Reserve University), Catherine Ashcraft (University of Colorado Boulder), Jane Stout (CRA) and facilitator Tricia Berry (The University of Texas at Austin).  The panelists discussed the third and final part of the AAUW “Moving the Needle” project — the Research Agenda, which is designed to assist both researchers in prioritizing their work and also leaders in government, foundations and corporations as they prioritize funding and other resources.

Stout and Buse

Jane Stout (left) and Kathleen Buse (right) at the WEPAN Opening Keynote Panel presentation.

Monday afternoon featured a networking session to foster collaboration among conference attendees, concurrent sessions aligned with the Forum theme, a State of WEPAN address by President Teri Reed, and group dinners to enable deeper conversations about significant topics addressed at the Forum.


Welcome Reception.


Yoga session held by Beverly of Mountain Movement.

Tuesday, June 13 began with an opportunity to refocus with a morning yoga session.  Forum programming began with the keynote panel discussion “Women of Color: ImpACTing STEM’s Past, Present, and Future”, featuring speakers Ivonne Diaz-Claisse (HISPA), Patty Lopez (Intel), Lindsey Malcom-Piqueux (University of Southern California), Shirly Montero Quesada (University of Colorado at Boulder), Renetta Tull (University of Maryland, Baltimore County) and facilitator DiOnetta Jones Crayton (Massachusetts Institute of Technology).

Women of Color panel

Women of Color panel (left to right) Lindsey Malcom-Piqueux, Ivonne Diaz-Claisse, Shirly Montero Quesada, Renetta Tull, and Patty Lopez.

Tuesday also featured a number of concurrent sessions, Showcase poster presentations, and the annual WEPAN Awards Luncheon.  Eleven awards were presented to individuals and institutions who demonstrate extraordinary service, significant achievement, model programs, and exemplary work environments that promote a culture of inclusion and the success of women in engineering.  A full list of honorees is available at

Betty Vetter Award

President-Elect Amy Freeman presents the Betty Vetter Award for Research to Julie Martin,

Tuesday’s program concluded with the keynote session “Speaking Up to Bias: Bystander Intervention to Bias in the Academy”, a roleplaying presentation led by Stephanie Goodwin (Wright State University).  The interactive presentation addressed bystander reactions to social biases and how these reactions can help or hinder decisions to speak up. Attendees were equipped to apply these concepts to everyday incidents of bias in academia, identifying concrete strategies for interrupting bias across academic workplace and social settings.

Speaking Up to Bias

Stephanie Goodwin directs performers (left to right) Sarah Appelhans, Walter Lee, Susan Metz, and Bev Louie in Speaking Up to Bias.

Wednesday, June 14 began with the “Creating the Mindset for Action” keynote panel.  Panelists Jenna Carpenter (Campbell University), Gretal Leibnitz (ProActualize Consulting and WEPAN), Gregory Washington (University of California – Irvine) and Glenn Weckerlin (Chevron) discussed key initiatives and actions that can drive the community towards 50/50 by 2050.  The goal was to leave attendees feeling inspired, empowered and armed with critical thoughts and ideas on driving for change as attendees return to their home institutions.  The Forum concluded with the Hi-Fives for Change Luncheon, featuring high-energy five minute presentations sharing research results and successful initiatives.

Creating the Mindset for Action panelists

Creating the Mindset for Action panelists Gregory Washington, Gretal Leibnitz, and Jenna Carpenter.

The Forum was made possible through the tireless efforts of WEPAN staff members Glenda LaRue, Usha Ramamurthy and Lesley Smith, Forum Chair Sheila Ross (Milwaukee School of Engineering), Board Liaison Lee Ann Cochran (Battelle), Marketing Chair Stephanie Martin (Nucor), Session Coordinator Chair La’Tonia Stiner-Jones (Ohio State), and many more volunteers.  WEPAN thanks the multiple institutions and organizations who sponsored the Forum:

For more information about the 2017 WEPAN Change Leader Forum, please visit the Forum website:

About the Author

Dr. Sheila Ross is an Associate Professor in the department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at the Milwaukee School of Engineering (MSOE), where she serves as advisor for the SWE Collegiate Section and honor society Eta Kappa Nu.  She served as Chair of the WEPAN 2017 Change Leader Forum conference committee, and applies what she has gained from involvement in WEPAN to lead multiple diversity efforts at MSOE.  She earned her B.S. degree summa cum laude in Electrical Engineering and Computational Mathematics from Marquette University, and her M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Electrical Engineering from the University of Wisconsin – Madison.