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Saluting our Schools

UF's College of Engineering focuses on inclusion

The College of Engineering is raising awareness that diversity is essential for good engineering. Programs are backed by future employers


Women and minority undergrads are well represented and professionally active at the University of Florida's College of Engineering (UF, Gainesville, FL). The UF NSBE chapter was "Chapter of the Year" at the 2011 national conference, and the UF SHPE chapter sent more than 100 students to SHPE's national event. SWE has an active UF chapter, and so does the Society of Asian Scientists and Engineers.

"A way to survive and connect is by joining one of these student organizations," says Angela Lindner, associate dean for engineering student affairs. "A lot of the energy and drive comes out of these groups."

That hasn't translated into increased numbers in graduate school, though, she reports. Six percent of UF undergraduates are African American, but only 2.3 percent of grad students. Hispanic Americans are 19 percent of undergrads and 5.2 percent of grad students; Asian Americans are 11 percent of undergrads and 4.3 percent of grad students. Women account for 23 percent of both undergrads and grads.

The UF administration is determined to increase minorities in its graduate programs. Task forces are looking at ways to increase representation for each underrepresented minority, along with veterans and people with disabilities.

"Our goal is to have the climate of inclusion woven in our fabric," Lindner says. "We want to raise awareness that diversity is essential for good engineering."

A broad range of grad programs
UF offers fifteen graduate engineering degree programs in ten departments, from aerospace to coastal and oceanographic engineering. PhD, MS and MEng degrees are offered. The Electronic Delivery of Gator Engineering (EDGE) program allows students to earn an MS in seven academic areas completely on line. Because the course material is identical, the degree is, too, Lindner reports. Graduate certificates are available in eight areas, with possible credit towards the MS.

The College of Engineering offers programs in both computer engineering and computer science. Students interested in a liberal arts background can also get their degrees in CS through the department of computer and information science and engineering. A collaboration with the College of Fine Arts offers an MS in digital arts and sciences, and includes classes focused on entertainment, interactive storytelling, game design and production, and related subjects.

An international program allows students to earn a certificate in global innovation studying at Technion (Haifa, Israel). Zhejiang University (Hangzhou, China) is scheduled to join the program and other agreements are in the works.

Minority undergrads receive support
Transfer students from community colleges and other four-year colleges are also welcome; transfers account for 24 percent of the first-year class and 7 percent of total undergrads.

STEP-UP ("successful transition through enhanced preparation for undergraduates program"), now in its twentieth year, gets students started on the path to success by bringing them to campus the summer before freshman year. Described as a boot camp for engineers, STEP-UP usually includes thirty or more invited students, who form a cohort that moves through the undergraduate years together.

All new engineering students can participate in another freshman retention program, the Engineering Freshman Transition Program. All-women sections of chemistry and calculus are available as well, and a recent corporate donation will support female teaching assistants in all-female sections of freshman chemistry, calculus and physics.

"We're looking for funding so that every one of our 1,200 freshmen can go through a program like STEP-UP," Lindner says. "STEP-UP students start getting internships after their freshman year. They end up being the best leaders."

Diverse grad students are urged to teach
UF looks to increase the number of minority faculty members by encouraging grad students to pursue academic careers. A year-long program, the Florida Institute for Development of Engineering Faculty, is available to prepare them for academic life.

"We want to introduce students to the idea that they can become professors," Lindner says. "Our vision is for UF to be the place where other universities will come to recruit a diverse engineering faculty."

Support is available for grad students
Undergrad juniors and seniors are invited to the campus for two days of grad school recruiting activities. GEM fellowships are available, and McNair assistantships and McKnight fellowships support grad students in research.

A Multicultural Round Table has traditionally welcomed minority grad students for networking and support. "It's a place for the voice of the underrepresented minority PhD student to be heard," Lindner says.

Corporate affiliations help with placement
Special engineering counselors help place grads in jobs through the career resource center. The school has connections with national corporations like Harris Corp (Melbourne, FL), Lockheed Martin (Bethesda, MD) and Intel Corp (Santa Clara, CA). "Florida industry is anxious to bring in more diverse employees, and great demand for STEM majors exists in the state," Lindner says.

Local companies are looking for computer engineers among other specialties, she notes.

"Our students get placed. Our programs are backed by their future employers."

D/C


College of Engineering

College of Engineering
www.eng.ufl.edu

Main campus: Gainesville, FL
Engineering enrollment: 5,093 BS, 1,650 MS, 1,084 PhD students
Graduate & UG tech degrees offered: BS, MS, PhD in aerospace, biological, biomedical, chemical, civil, computer, electrical, environmental, mechanical and nuclear engineering; computer science, materials science and engineering, industrial and systems engineering. MS and PhD in coastal engineering; BS and MS in digital arts and sciences
Ways to matriculate: Full time on campus; on line for many MS degrees and certificate programs

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