Advancing the Image of Engineering One Audience at a Time

College Environment

Chapter 6 – The College Student Experience provides examples of how small incremental departmental changes can be made to create an inclusive environment and result in tremendous gains in recruiting and retaining both women and men. The chapter is divided into two studies:

  • Computer Science – Chronicles how recruiting and retention can be improved by small changes to departmental culture, cirriculum, admissions policies by looking at peer culture and building an inclusive environment.
  • Physics – Chronicles the difference between typical and highly successful campuses in recruiting and retention by using the examples of HBCU’s to build pathways for students who liked physics but did not necessairly have the preparation. “You don’t have to aim at women to have the benefits for women.”  

Supporting Material:

  • Unlocking the Clubhouse: Women in Computing by Jane Margolis and Allan Fisher – Is a book that chronicles the Carnegie Mellon 5 year study where they were able to increase the percentage of women in their Computer Science program from a floundering 7% to an extraordinary 40%, increase retention from 60% to 100% for the women and increase retention from 80% to 100% for the men.  Proof that what is good for women is good for men.
  • Women at School of Computer Science outreach tools (media and slides) developed by Carnegie Mellon to interest and educate students and the general public about computer science. It is a great refresher course about how computer science and problem solving go hand in hand.

In the News:

  • 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 cirriculum.  Worcester Polytechnic Institute has taken this simple concept and added in research, design and social-service in its design projects to their students curriculum.
  • 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?

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