Students leaping by Drumheller Fountain


Promoting Equity in Engineering Relationships (PEERs) is a program for students, by students to improve the University of Washington College of Engineering. PEERs integrates NSF-funded efforts across the UW in an innovative way to improve the experiences of underrepresented undergraduates in the College of Engineering.

Through a student seminar, peer-led presentations, and student leaders, PEERs engages a cadre of students, professors, and staff to create positive change toward a more inclusive environment in the UW College of Engineering. PEERs focuses on solutions that “fix the system” of bias and stereotype, with a long-term goal of increasing the participation of all underrepresented groups in engineering.

PEERs was a first-round NSF Innovation through Institutional Integration (I3) awardee. NSF’s Innovation through Institutional Integration (I³) endeavor, challenges faculty, administrators, and others in institutions to think strategically about the creative integration of NSF-funded awards towards a whole that exceeds the sum of its parts. The original PEERs grant ended in 2014. The PEERs seminar is now funded by the College of Engineering.

Why PEERs?

When asked to imagine what an engineer looks like, most everyone will envision a white non-disabled male. Indeed, women make up less that 21% of the undergraduate engineering students, a number inconsistent with their proportion in the broader undergraduate population (more than 50%). African American and Hispanic students earned less than 15% of engineering bachelor degrees, a percentage far below their proportion in the school-age population. Additionally, students with disabilities experience more barriers to academic success than their non-disabled peers. It’s no wonder people associate white non-disabled men with engineering.

Engineering and other STEM fields thrive on creativity, innovation, and persistence. These fields need a broad array of perspectives and experiences to generate the most creative and innovation solutions. More diversity in engineering will help generate more creativity and innovation. Indeed, as William A. Wulf, former president of the National Academy of Engineering, noted in his remarks at the 1999 Women in Engineering ProActive Network (WEPAN) conference, “[a]t a fundamental level, men, women, ethnic minorities, racial minorities, and people with handicaps, experience the world differently. Those differences of experiences are the ‘gene pool’ from which creativity springs.”

To increase the numbers of women and minorities who persist in engineering, universities have a responsibility to create campus communities that welcome and support students from all backgrounds. Supportive peers and peer groups can contribute to campus climate, student aspirations and achievement, career choice, and lead to improved persistence for underrepresented students. Because of this, efforts to improve the climate for women, minority, and disabled students in academia should include peer-led educational opportunities. Thus, we have created PEERs.

To learn more about the information presented here, visit our PEERs resources page to find more in-depth studies and analyses.

National Science Foundation

This program is made possible through a National Science Foundation grant (HRD-0833338). Any opinions, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed are those of the participants, and do not necessarily represent the official views, opinions or policy of the National Science Foundation.

News and Events

August 29, 2018
PEERS course jigsaw teaching model
The PEERs course jigsaw teaching model featured on inclusive teaching website.

August 2, 2018
WiSE Up Bridge presentation
10:30 – 11:15 Loew 215.

Sept 6, 2018
MSEP/STEM Bridge presentation
11:45 – 12:45 pm Location: TBA.

June 5, 2018
PEERs course final student presentations
PEERs seminar students will give their final presentation to the public from 4:30–6 pm in HUB 214.

April 29, 2018
Joyce Yen speaks at CoNECD
Dr. Joyce Yen gives a presentation about the PEERs course at the 2018 CoNECD conference in Washington, D.C.

March 27, 2018
2018 Offering of the PEERs seminar begins
30 UW engineering students are enrolled in the 9th offering of the PEERs seminar, taking place in the spring quarter.

January 18, 2018
PEERs Leaders present at STARS seminar
PEERs Leaders will present to STARS program participants at their winter seminar, which takes place on January 18th, from 3:30–4:30pm, in MEB 246.