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Saluting our Schools

Purdue’s College of Technology pursues diversity goals

Research funding at the college has grown from $300,000 in 2002 to nearly $10 million in 2012. A diverse faculty attracts increasingly diverse students


The growth of mobile technologies has created more jobs for talented computer experts than there are graduates to fill them. The College of Technology at Purdue University (West Lafayette, IN) is increasing its diversity efforts to attract students to its programs to meet that demand.

“The College of Technology is where we are seeing the greatest growth,” says James Mohler, associate dean for academic affairs and diversity. “We can’t create graduates fast enough.”

As the college’s programs have grown, from a single graduate program to seven departments with nine graduate programs, so has its diversity. The diversity plan adopted in 2012 sets goals for inclusion that the college is on track to meet. Female enrollment has increased from 11 percent to 15 percent, and is predicted to hit 17.5 percent in 2014 and 30 percent in 2017. Underrepresented ethnic minorities increased from 13 percent in the 2005-06 academic year to nearly 22 percent in 2012-13.

The college’s seven departments currently offering graduate degrees are aviation technology, building and construction management, computer and information technology, computer graphics technology, electrical and computer engineering technology, mechanical engineering technology and technology leadership and innovation. Areas of specialization range from aviation human performance to advanced computer graphics.

All departments have formal mentoring programs. “We are striving to grow departmentally based PhDs in all programs,” notes Mohler.

Purdue is a research institution
Graduate programs need a funded research program for support. The college has seen its research funding grow from $300,000 in 2002 to nearly $10 million in 2012. Its current programs focus on technology and life sciences, security and forensics, advanced manufacturing, cyber infrastructure, energy and sustainability, and science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education. A long list of awards is posted on the college’s website.

From its beginnings as a teaching unit, the College of Technology is now a fully functioning research entity at Purdue University. It’s known for its applied research and partnerships with industry. The National Science Foundation, the Department of Defense and the National Institutes of Health are among the sponsors.

“Historically, we have done applied work with business and industry,” Mohler says. “We have kept pace with business and industry, but the growth has been in the sponsored research area.”

Mohler’s background is in computer graphics, multimedia and hypermedia development. His research areas are spatial ability, spatial assessment and visual thinking, interactive media and educational technology. He came to his administrative position from the computer graphics technology department and is listed in Purdue’s Book of Great Teachers list.

Women and minorities get support
Aviation is a big attraction for students. The college has an active partnership with the Able Flight program (www.ableflight.org), supporting people with disabilities who want to learn to fly. Scholarships are available to earn sport pilot licenses and adapt airplanes for use by paraplegics.

The College of Technology is supporting women and underrepresented minorities with mentoring programs. The campus Women in Technology organization’s WITty Sisters program reaches out to incoming undergrads and new grad students to help them get established and succeed, pairing them with upper-division students. The group recently received a $750 Student Seed Fund grant from the National Center for Women & Information Technology to pay for outings away from the classroom.

“We are aiming to change a whole industry,” Mohler says. “We provide a support structure for women in the short term, but it’s a long-term investment.”

That means filling the pipeline with programs targeting middle and high school students to interest them in technology careers. Kids come to campus for technology camps throughout the year. Faculty and staff visit schools to connect with students. The Surprising Possibilities Imagined and Realized through Information Technology (SPIRIT) program engages high school teachers, guidance counselors and their students.

Diverse faculty attracts diverse students
On campus, increasing women on the faculty is a priority. The college focuses on attracting a diverse pool of applicants for faculty positions and makes a conscious effort to hire women and underrepresented minorities. For one basic course in the core curriculum, the college administration decided to have half the sections taught by women.

“We can’t attract diverse students and women unless we have them in the classrooms from day one,” Mohler says. “We’ve carved out resources for people in each department to serve those communities.”

Keeping women and minority students in the program once they get started is another focus. The college sent several women students to the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing in 2012. Efforts like this appear to be helping retain women in computing majors.

Incoming freshmen are invited to attend a five-week academic boot camp to give them a leg up as they adjust to campus life. The program is funded by ArcelorMittal, Boeing, Eli Lilly and John Deere.

“Just as you have time for what you make time for,” says Mohler, “you can get a diverse mix if you consciously make those choices.”

D/C


Purdue University

College of Technology
www.tech.purdue.edu

Main campus: West Lafayette, IN
Technology enrollment: 3,196 undergrad and 462 graduate
Graduate & UG tech degrees offered: PhD: technology; MS: aviation and aerospace management, building construction management, computer and information technology, computer graphics technology, industrial technology, technology; BS: aeronautical engineering technology, aviation management, FAA air traffic control, professional flight technology, building construction management, computer graphics technology, computer and information technology, electrical engineering technology, engineering/technology teacher education, engineering technology, industrial distribution, industrial technology, manufacturing engineering technology, mechanical engineering technology, organizational leadership and supervision
Ways to matriculate: BS – full time, part time on campus. MS – full time, part time, on campus and on line

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