female students having fun at GoldShirt summer bridge outdoor program

Above: Students participate in the Engineering GoldShirt program teambuilding challenge at Gold Hill. 
Top Left: CU Engineering Class of 2023 take inaugural first-year photo—all 947 of them.
Top Right: Two students having fun during Engineering Launch 2019.

The College of Engineering & Applied Science is just a few percentage points away from achieving one of its major diversity, equity and inclusion goals.

Three years ago, the college publicly announced its goal to become the first public engineering school with an undergraduate population that is 50% female* while while reflecting the demographics of our state’s high school graduates. A focus on the first-year class was identified as a mechanism to achieve this goal over time

Three years later, the first-year enrollment for the engineering class of 2023 is 947 students, comprising 45% female, 25% underrepresented minority and 20% first-generation students. For reference, the first-year class in fall 2016 was 32% female, 18% underrepresented minority and 16% first-generation college students and the fall 2016 and fall 2019 classes are approximately the same size.

“This is a wonderfully diverse and talented class of students,” said Bobby Braun, dean of the College of Engineering and Applied Science. “They come from all states in our country and more than 70 countries across the world. They are the most scholastically talented and most diverse class our college has admitted to date.” 

Students are also noticing the difference. "In my mobile application development class, there are more girls than guys," said Carlie Charp engineering sophomore in technology, arts and media. "I was shocked and pleasantly surprised as I did not have any engineering classes like that last year."

Addison Woodard, a junior in aerospace engineering added, "It is an incredibly exciting time to be in engineering at CU Boulder, and it is even more exciting to see women supporting one another in Engineering daily."

Based upon input from faculty, staff and student stakeholders from across the college, university and state, the CEAS Strategic Vision included a number of goals aimed at increasing diversity and inclusion in the community. As a state university with a mission to serve the public interest, this approach set CU Engineering on a course to build a community that reflects the state of Colorado. 

Diversity is not a new theme at CU Boulder Engineering. Since the 1970s, student-focused organizations have supported the success of women, racial minorities and LGBTQ students, who have been historically underrepresented in STEM education and careers. Today, CU Engineering’s (Broadening Opportunity through Leadership and Diversity) BOLD Center supports students through its commitment to creating a diverse environment where all engineering students are welcome. 

“The evolution of our entire student body will take time,” said Amanda Parker, senior director of enrollment management. “We’re seeing change, but we’ll really see it after a few years of first-year classes that start off with 50% women enrolled. In the future, we aim to have an undergraduate student body that maintains gender parity.” 

Last month, CU Engineering also created two new positions to increase support for its diversity and inclusion efforts. The BOLD Center has, for the first time, a standalone director whose duties are focused on the center and needs of the students it serves. Previous directors held duties in other parts of the college, too. Additionally, a new role, director of inclusive culture, has been created to serve the entire college. 

*The University of Colorado Boulder utilizes the Common App which, in reference to gender, provides three choices: male, female and unknown. 


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Maria Kuntz is the assistant director for communications, inclusion and community in the College of Engineering & Applied Science.