Summer/Fall 2012

Diversity/Careers Summer/Fall 2012 Issue

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Saluting our Schools

Oakland University supports underrepresented groups

A business incubator and industry and government-supported special programs help increase participation in engineering, IT and entrepreneurship

Oakland University's southern Michigan location puts it in close proximity to a number of engineering-intensive giants of the automotive and other industries.

Oakland's School of Engineering and Computer Science (SECS) supports about 1,000 undergraduates and 500 graduate students. The school offers BS, MS and PhD degrees in engineering and computer science fields. "SECS has long been dedicated to supporting learning environments that are inviting and comfortable for all students," declares associate dean Lorenzo Smith.

OU incubator nurtures SECS ideas
Oakland University's SmartZone business incubator provides a place for business and engineering entrepreneurs to collaboratively develop and commercialize products. A number of incubator programs originate at SECS.

"Providing resources for programs that bolster educational opportunities for underrepresented students is a natural fit for our incubator," says Smith. In the summer of 2011, the incubator brought two dozen pre-college male students from underrepresented groups to campus for a residential program focused on clean energy. "Fostering diversity here at OU makes great business sense. Often, an important part of a successful business plan is the consideration of products from different perspectives," Smith notes.

Chrysler-supported engineering program attracts women
Smith reports that 16 percent of engineering undergrads are female. He's particularly proud that five of the thirteen current undergrads in the Chrysler Learning and Innovation Center for Sheet Metal Forming (CLIC-form) program are women. CLIC-form is designed to produce graduates with specialized skills in sheet metal stamping. The students are offered fulltime, full-pay summer internships at companies like Chrysler Group LLC and United States Steel Corp. Students learn even more about the "real world" of manufacturing through their participation in weekly workshops during the academic year.

Targeting women tech students
The field of computer science continues to be mostly male; at OU, 17 percent of CS undergrads and 23 percent of PhD candidates are women.

Professor Fatma Mili is working to change that. A student chapter of the Association for Computing Machinery's women's SIG (ACM-W) serves as a home for women students; since 2000, the department has run an NSF Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program targeted to female students. Most REU graduates have gone on to get graduate degrees, including several PhDs. A Summer Institute in Bioengineering and Health Informatics is open to students pursuing degrees in computer and health sciences and other related majors. It aims to expose students to careers in bioengineering and health informatics, and emphasizes participation by African American and other minority students. Mili is confident that these and other efforts will boost the department's representation of women and other underrepresented groups.

"We want to get to the day when we are fifty-fifty," says Mili. "It's a loss for the field as well as a loss for the students when they have all the credentials and talent and aren't able to bring it to the table."


Oakland University School of Engineering and Computer Science

Oakland University School of
Engineering and Computer Science


Main campus: Rochester, MI
Engineering enrollment: 1,500 (1,000 undergrad, 500 graduate)
Graduate & UG tech degrees offered: BS in CS, information technology; electrical, computer, mechanical engineering; industrial and systems engineering. MS in CS, software engineering and information technology, electrical and computer engineering, embedded systems, mechatronics, systems engineering, industrial and systems engineering, engineering management, mechanical engineering. PhD in CS and information technology, electrical and computer engineering, systems engineering, mechanical engineering
Ways to matriculate: Full time or part time on campus

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