Advancing the Image of Engineering One Audience at a Time

Archive for January, 2012

Expanding Your Horizons Keynote

Want Your Daughter to be an Engineer? Better Watch What You Say!

“Girls do as well as or better than boys in high school math and science and many of them are well prepared and hard working but would not consider a STEM career. Why? Maybe they are getting the wrong messages. Possibly even from you! Come learn from the latest research on why there are so few women in the Sciences, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (or STEM) and see what you as parent, educator, and employer can do. Come learn how early career choices are made, the threats girls pursuing STEM careers face, and how to change societal dialogue and behaviors that hinder girls in their pursuit of STEM careers. Hope to see you there.”

This is the new title and abstract to my keynote address for the Expanding Your Horizons (EYH) Parent-Educator Program, March 3rd 2012, where I will be presenting the latest research on women in engineering and the sciences.  Traditionally this program has attracted about 70 parents to this 500 girl event. To bring in more parents and educators, the EYH organizers will be marketing the parent program for the first time.  This new marketing approach was the inspiration for the title “Want Your Daughter to be an Engineer? Better Watch What Your Say!”.  Time will tell if more parents stay to hear the research – instead of just dropping their daughters off – or if the new direct mailings to educators will entice them to spend a little time on a Saturday morning to hear the research. In any case, I look forward to presenting the latest material to the parents and to see if we can make inroads with the San Diego County educators.

Simply Good or Great

Student College Experience: Sense of Belonging

In the news are two articles (see below): both about the engineering college experience. One – Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) – near the top of the student engagement factor. The other – UC Berkeley – was hit with a wake up call.  It is clear which  university has embraced the  latest STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) research on the student college experience: keeping students’ engineering aspirations alive, building an inclusive environment, attracting and retaining engineering students.

To investigate further, I went to both university’s web pages to see how they brand their engineering departments and to see what would pop up if I did a “STEM” search. The Berkeley web pages show a lot of fascinating technology with a homogenous student population; the “STEM” search comes back with one hit: “STEM Cell Center” in reference to new technology. The WPI web pages show cool technology with a diverse look and feel; the “STEM”  search comes back with its own “STEM Education Center” including an extensive ‘explore the internet’ list of STEM education websites. I’m not saying that Berkeley falls under the “death by lecture” category, they are a good school, but I do wonder about their student college experience especially for under-represented populations. Something to consider when looking for schools. 

  • Why Science Majors Change their Minds  (It’s Just So Darn Hard) by Christopher Drew – Is a Nov 4th, 2011 New York Times article about the fundamental changes engineering schools can do to build engagement and help keep early aspirations alive.  Most of the early engineering courses do not match the image of what aspiring students have of engineering. Much of the fun engineering applications students might have learned from K-12 can turn to an all ”stale”  theory and “death by lecture”. The article advocates a relatively simple change, to add application to its curriculum.  Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has taken this simple concept and added in research, design and social-service in its design projects to their students curriculum. A direct recommendation from the College Student Experience in Why So Few?
  • Diversity Urged at UC Berkeley engineering school – is a Jan 4th, 2012 San Francisco Chronicle article about frustrated students who sense the lack of effort into helping the under-represented engineering students gain a sense of belonging.  Will the leadership’s platitudes turn into anything real?