Thursday July 23, 2009

Boost for Minority and Women Engineers

The National Science Foundation, Messer Construction and the Virginia Kettering Foundation awarded grants to support programs in the School of Engineering for minorities and women.

Minority and women engineering students entering the University of Dayton this year will receive a head start toward their degrees this summer because of nearly $750,000 from the National Science Foundation, Messer Construction and the Virginia Kettering Foundation.

The lion's share — $650,000 — comes from a National Science Foundation grant to create a learning-living community of engineers who focus on service learning and sustainability. The community hopes to provide the mission, community and support needed to increase enrollment of minorities and women in engineering; increase retention through graduation; and pilot a sustainable engineering curriculum that can serve as a model for other universities.

"The guiding question for this project is this: 'Can minority and women enrollment and retention in engineering be increased by uniting such students in community and a mission of engineering to create a sustainable world?'" said Kevin Hallinan, chair of the University of Dayton's mechanical and aerospace engineering department and the renewable and clean energy masters program.

Another $47,000 from the National Science Foundation and the Ohio Science and Engineering Alliance will help minority and women engineering students entering the University this fall to engage in summer research opportunities before they even reach campus.

"Our goals are to have these students actively engaged in undergraduate research on our campus, learning about graduate school and understanding what academic excellence is before their first semester this fall even begins," said Laura Bistrek, director of the University of Dayton Minority Engineering Program. "Research shows this type of head start helps retention."

Dayton-based Messer Construction and the Virginia Kettering Foundation are kicking in $20,000 and $15,000, respectively, also to help first-year minority science, technology, engineering and math students in the Minority STEM Summer Bridge Program, designed to help minority students get a feel for the college experience before their first class.

Bistrek said she hopes the program helps develop a cohesive group of students before the school year starts, facilitate an environment of academic excellence and improve student academic performance and retention in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The program includes courses in calculus, chemistry, biology and physics taught by School of Engineering faculty members; sessions on study skills and time management; orientation to college life and campus support services; activities to build group cohesiveness; and opportunities for interaction with the wider campus community.

"I met some wonderful people (students and staff), and I met some new friends who I will have classes with," said Lydia Everhart, a participant in the summer bridge program. "Without coming to this program, I would not feel as prepared for college this fall."

For more information, contact Meagan Pant, assistant director of news and communications, at 937-229-3256 or