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An evolving IDEA

December 11, 2023

Since 2016, UW ChemE has been committed to fostering a diverse and inclusive culture where everyone is equipped to learn and to do their best work, and the department continues to make great strides. Here is a snapshot of their journey so far.


  • A new ad hoc committee was formed to address diversity within the department. Former department chair François Baneyx appointed James Carothers to lead the committee, with the goal of exploring ways to recruit, retain and support a more diverse cohort of students in ChemE.


WChE Logo

In early 2016, the first chapter of Women in Chemical Engineering (WChE) was founded by Professor Elizabeth Nance and students at the University of Washington. The purpose of this student organization is to educate, empower, and advocate for women in chemical engineering and their allies by providing a safe space for dialogue, mentorship, collaboration and camaraderie for all.


  • UW ChemE begins to hold regular annual celebrations for Veteran’s Day, Pride Month and International Women’s Day, to recognize and celebrate students of underrepresented demographics and nontraditional backgrounds.
  • In 2018, UW Chemical Engineering removed the GRE from the graduate program application requirements. After considerable research and internal discussion among faculty, it was concluded that removing this requirement would ultimately benefit the department by reducing barriers to accessing top talent.



  • Bathrooms in Benson Hall were reassigned to move closer to equal availability of gendered men’s and women’s facilities, in addition to the building’s existing all-gender bathrooms.
  • Onboarding materials for all new faculty were developed and implemented, to emphasize the commitment and expectations of the department around DEI efforts.


  • The IDEA Endowed Support Fund in Chemical Engineering was established, to further the efforts of our now established Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee. The word “IDEA” in the fund name initially stood for inclusion, diversity, equity and antiracism.
  • The Benson Hall lobby was remodeled to adopt a more welcoming atmosphere for students, along with accessibility improvements like installing digital touch screens to help students and visitors navigate the building.


  • An “Ethics and DEI for Chemical Engineers” seminar was added to the curriculum, focusing on fostering social awareness and ethical responsibility within the field of engineering for ChemE students. Guest speakers from the UW and other institutions present on topics highlighting issues like workplace discrimination, implicit bias and intersectionality.
  • The initial Universal Design for Learning training was delivered, which emphasizes specific learning principles that support all student learning types regardless of disability status. The DEI committee and undergrad committee led a massive effort to promote support for students with disability accommodations, and helped encourage more widespread use of classroom recordings.
  • Committee members and advising staff expanded the DEI pages on ChemE’s website to include more resources and offer transparency around the diversity, equity and inclusion efforts of the department.


  • Formal peer mentoring programs for ChemE students were established. These programs connect new undergraduate and graduate students entering the department to other students who are nearing the end of their degree. This peer connection helps mitigate anxiety and isolation and fosters a sense of belonging for students of all backgrounds as they pursued their degree in chemical engineering.

2024 and beyond

The DEI Committee is focused on continuing to build a resource library for Universal Design in Learning training materials to further engage and support ChemE students in their success.

Learn more