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Enhancing the Community College Pathway to Engineering Careers 5 Diversity in the Engineering Workforce The engineering profession in the United States faces a diversity imperative. Historically, engineering has been a white male-domi nated profession. While other countries have been diversifying their engineering workforces, mostly in terms of increasing the number of women engineers, the “face” of the U.S. engineering workforce still does not reflect the diversity of the population. In spite of efforts by many individuals and organizations over the past 30 years, economic, cultural, educational, and institutional barriers continue to discourage or prevent women and underrepresented minorities from pursuing engineering education and the rewarding careers that can follow. To meet the need for the best and brightest individuals in engineering, as well as in science, technology, and mathematics, we must develop a domestic talent pool that looks very different from the one we draw on today. KEY CHALLENGES Since World War II, the United States has become increasingly dependent on talented individuals from abroad to meet its engineering needs instead of developing a broad domestic talent base that includes women and underrepresented minorities. Although the influx of foreign-born students into U.S. engineering schools and the engineering workforce has given U.S. engineering an international cultural and linguistic “feel,” the creativity and ideas of American women and minorities have yet to be exploited. In 2004, 46 percent of master’s degrees and 57 percent of doctoral de-
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Enhancing the Community College Pathway to Engineering Careers grees in engineering were awarded to foreign nationals (EWC, 2004). However, the United States cannot continue to rely on talent from elsewhere to meet its engineering needs. As Chubin et al. (2005) and many, many others have observed, recent events have raised questions about the decades-long strategy of drawing engineering talent from other countries. We must begin to ask ourselves who should be admitted to U.S. universities, if we want graduates to stay here or return home, if national security concerns take precedence over the development of a global workforce, and if a profession rooted in American markets can thrive on increasingly foreign-born talent. The demographics of the engineering workforce clearly reflect the problem. About one-third of the school-age population in the United States consists of underrepresented minority students. Women constitute more than half of the U.S. population and 60 percent of the total workforce. Jackson (2002) observed that women and minorities in the U.S. no longer are the underrepresented minority, they are the underrepresented majority. Nevertheless, the percentage of freshman women enrolled in engineering has declined recently, from a high of 19.9 percent in 1996 to 16.34 percent in 2004 (EWC, 2004). The lack of diversity in the engineering workforce and in the engineering-education pipeline, poses significant, and growing, costs and risks for the engineering profession. First and foremost, the extreme under-representation of major segments of American society in engineering poses a moral and social dilemma, and, unless actions are taken to change the situation, the opportunity costs to the engineering enterprise and the nation will increase in the coming decades. Second, experience in industry and the classroom shows that creativity is increased and the range of potential solutions to problems is expanded when teams of people approach problems from diverse personal, cultural, and disciplinary perspectives. The scarcity of women and underrepresented minorities in U.S. engineering classrooms, research laboratories, design studios, and corporate boardrooms limits the perspectives and diversity of ideas/solutions (Wulf, 2002). Finally, although the long-term demand for engineering is notoriously difficult to predict, demographic trends guarantee that the current “underrepresented majority” in the United States will account for an increasing share of the population and workforce as the new century progresses. Community colleges have long been recognized as providing opportunities to advance the goal of diversifying the U.S. engineering workforce, especially racial and ethnic diversity. Although the makeup of community colleges student bodies varies by geographic location, a larger percentage of students from some minority groups, notably Hispanics and American Indians, attend community colleges than white students. Con-
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Enhancing the Community College Pathway to Engineering Careers comitantly, community colleges have become an educational pipeline for underrepresented minorities entering the higher education system. In 1992, enrollments of minority students accounted for about 25 percent of total enrollment in community colleges: 9.9 percent African American students; 1.1 percent American Indian students; 5.0 percent Asian/Pacific Islanders; and 9.3 percent Hispanic students (Table 5-1). By 1995, Hispanics enrolled in community colleges outnumbered African Americans (AACC, 2000). By 2002, the minority subtotal of community college enrollments had grown to 33 percent. Changes in the representation of subgroups of minority students between 1992 and 2002, although small, are likely to be predictive of future demographic changes. In 2002, African American students comprised 36.0 percent of minority enrollments—a slight decrease from 1992. Hispanic student representation rose to 41.2 percent, and American Indian student representation rose to 3.7. The largest increase—from 5.0 to 19.0 percent—was for Asian/Pacific Islanders (Phillippe and Gonzalez Sullivan, 2005). Community college students differ from their counterparts at four-year institutions both demographically (i.e., in age, enrollment status, socioeconomic status, and educational background) and in student outcomes (i.e., grade point average, time to degree, and dropout rates). As Table 5-1 shows, community college students are more likely to be part-time students, more likely to be older, less likely to be dependents, more likely to have dependents, more likely to be minority students, and more likely to be working full time. In addition, some community college students are first-generation students, whose circumstances and worldview differ in many ways from students whose parents attended college (Inman and Mayes, 1999). TABLE 5-1 Percentage of Bachelor’s, Master’s, and Doctoral Degrees in Academic Year 2003–2004, by Race/Ethnicity and Foreign-National Status Type of Degree Race/Ethnicity Foreign-National Status White Male White Female Asian American Hispanic American African American Native American Bachelor’s 57% 12% 13% 6% 5% <1% 7% Master’s 32 8 9 3 3 <1 46 Doctoral 27 7 6 2 2 <1 56 SOURCE: EWC, 2004.
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Enhancing the Community College Pathway to Engineering Careers TABLE 5-2 Percentage Distribution for 1999–2000 of Undergraduates According to Selected Student Characteristics, by Type of Institution. Source: Department of Education, 2003.
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Enhancing the Community College Pathway to Engineering Careers EXEMPLARY APPROACHES Several of the community colleges represented at the workshop had substantial numbers of minority students in their engineering programs. They attributed the numbers to the geographic area from which they draw students, rather than to strategies for recruitment and retention. A representative of one institution with a considerable number of black students noted that they were mostly from outside the United States and that, despite its efforts, little progress had been made in recruiting American-born black students. National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering The mission of the National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering (NACME) is to provide leadership and support for a national effort to increase the representation of African American, American Indian, and Latino women and men in engineering and technology and mathematics- and science-based careers. NACME is the nation’s largest source of private-sector scholarships for minorities in engineering. Approximately 75 students annually are awarded full tuition and housing to attend one of nine institutions that participate in the NACME Engineering Vanguard Program. More than 15 percent of all minority graduates in engineering since 1974 received NACME scholarships (SWE, 2004). Currently enrolled, full-time engineering students can also apply to participate in the NACME Corporate Internship Program, attend leadership-development seminars, and are mentored by corporate professionals. NACME also provides diversity interventions to schools, government agencies, organizations, and corporations. These include cultural audits, awareness seminars, and mentor training. For K–12 teachers, NACME offers professional development with training in use of the WorldCom MarcoPolo Internet Content for the Classroom, which provides standards-based materials in mathematics, science, and other subjects. NACME works with university admissions personnel and program directors to help them assess student potentials and trains them to use the assessment protocol developed in its Engineering Vanguard Program. NACME hosts two Web sites—www.guidemenacme.org and www.mathispower.org—designed for precollege students, parents, and educators. GuideMe offers information on a variety of scholarship opportunities; pointers on preparing for and applying to engineering schools; and guidelines for selecting schools that meet student needs. The Math Is Power Web site features interactive games and puzzles, links to national Web-based resources, and a registry of local events. The annual NACME Forum attracts public- and private-sector leaders from more than 200 organizations to discuss issues that effect minority
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Enhancing the Community College Pathway to Engineering Careers achievement in engineering, share best practices, and develop strategies for recruiting and retaining minorities in engineering and technology. Georgia Institute of Technology College of Engineering Georgia Tech ranks first in the country in the number of engineering degrees it awards to women and underrepresented minorities. To attain that status, the Regents’ Engineering Transfer Program was created to address the engineering needs of Georgia; to expand access to engineering education; and to do these two things in the context of the University System of Georgia. The program addresses the needs of many students: a desire to attend college close to home; a need to reduce the costs of education; and smaller classes, individual attention, and greater access to faculty members, typically offered by community colleges, to increase the chances of academic success. Georgia Tech’s program is discussed in greater detail in Chapter 2 of the report. Emerson Electric Company Minority Engineering Scholarship This program, funded by Emerson Electric Company, provides opportunities for aspiring engineers to earn engineering degrees through St. Louis Community College and the University of Missouri at Rolla. Founded in St. Louis in 1890, Emerson is a global manufacturer of a variety of electrical and electronic products and systems for commercial, industrial, and consumer markets. The company has more than 100,000 employees at more than 300 manufacturing facilities worldwide. The scholarship program makes it possible for participating students who keep their grades up to earn degrees in mechanical, electrical, or computer engineering from prestigious engineering schools—with nearly all expenses paid. Participating students follow a specific pre-engineering curriculum at one of the three campuses of St. Louis Community College and then transfer to the University of Missouri at Rolla to complete their engineering degrees. The Emerson scholarships—eight are awarded annually—cover the cost of tuition and fees for as many as six consecutive semesters at any of the community college campuses. The scholarship, which is awarded and reviewed on a semester-to-semester basis, continues when students transfer to the University of Missouri at Rolla. CONCLUSION Diversity among engineering students is an important goal, both for the U.S. S&E business community and for the higher education community. Equality of opportunity is a moral imperative in America, which is
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Enhancing the Community College Pathway to Engineering Careers backed up by substantial legislation (e.g., the Civil Rights Act for minorities and Title IX for women). In addition, diversity has been shown to enhance education for all students (ACE and AAUP, 2000), and a diverse student body will lead to a more diverse workforce. Women and underrepresented minorities represent an untapped potential for the U.S. S&E workforce. Successful women and minority engineers in the workforce and on engineering faculties will also provide role models, thus reinforcing the confidence of others to follow in their footsteps. Although some community colleges have very diverse student bodies, for geographic or other reasons, very few underrepresented minority students actually obtain engineering degrees. And four-year universities, although they are generally interested in increasing the diversity of their student populations, do not reach out enough to community colleges, by providing advisors, academic support, scholarships, student networking, and so on, to establish an effective mechanism for transfer. The committee reviewed materials and heard expert testimony on the effectiveness of minority bridge programs in moving underrepresented minorities into engineering programs, as well as preparing them for the transition from high school to college (both two- and four-year programs) and from two-year to four-year programs. Some of these bridge programs begin working with students in middle, or even elementary, schools, and some focus primarily on easing the transition between community college engineering science or technology programs and four-year programs for all students. The MESA program, described in detail in Chapter 2 of the report was identified by the committee as an exemplary bridge program. Conclusion 5-1 Lessons learned from programs designed for underrepresented groups in engineering could be applied to engineering students generally. This will require more research to identify the components of successful outreach/bridge programs that could be scaled to a larger engineering student population. Conclusion 5-2 Four-year programs could be more proactive in developing bridge strategies with community college partners and collaborating in outreach to K–12 teachers and students. Four-year engineering programs could identify community colleges with large numbers of underrepresented minority students and establish relationships with these schools through faculty exchanges, invitations to students to visit their campus, speakers from their school, scholarships earmarked for transfer students, and other mechanisms that demonstrate their interest in attracting minority students to engineering careers.
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Enhancing the Community College Pathway to Engineering Careers Conclusion 5-3 Organizations in the engineering educational and professional communities could work together to increase awareness of the need for diversity in the engineering workforce and educate state and federal legislators. State and federal funding for community college students and incentives for four-year engineering institutions to reach out to community colleges and their students could help increase the number of underrepresented minorities in engineering. Conclusion 5-4 Research could focus on identifying factors that are associated with the successful recruitment and retention of underrepresented minorities and women in science and engineering programs in two-year and four-year institutions and on assessing the success rate of the transfer mission for these students.
Representative terms from entire chapter: