Diversity in our Engineering Talent Pipeline
On October 14, 2011, we officially launched the IDEA Student Center at the Jacobs School of Engineering. The IDEA Student Center promotes Inclusion, Diversity, Excellence and Advancement among students, faculty and staff across the Jacobs School; and my hope is that the center will transform the culture and climate of the school.
Based on the most recent numbers available, only 57 percent of the students who begin their undergraduate studies at the Jacobs School earn a degree here. We are not unique, retention in engineering is a problem across the country. Part of the new center's mission is to foster the development of diverse, innovative technology leaders. This involves reaching out to students from traditionally underrepresented groups in engineering - a population that includes first-generation college students, underrepresented minority students and women. The IDEA Student Center works to attract a diverse pool of students to the Jacobs School and then, crucially, strives to improve retention rates. Currently, students from traditionally underrepresented groups in engineering have significantly lower retention rates than other students at the Jacobs School.
Why do these students leave engineering majors in disproportionate numbers? Research shows that insufficient academic preparation, poor performance in introductory classes, feelings of isolation, and lack of mentoring lead to attrition. The IDEA Student Center is responding with programs that offer academic preparation, mentoring, peer support and opportunities for community building. Our efforts invariably seek to get students fully involved in their engineering education. The most important retention tool that we have is student engagement. Through the IDEA Student Center, we encourage students, from day one, to participate in student organizations here at the Jacobs School. The IDEA Student Center team also guides our students toward opportunities to work in multidisciplinary teams that produce deliverables for companies and nonprofits; to work in the research labs alongside our faculty and graduate students; to take our leadership courses, workshops and forums; and to practice entrepreneurship skills.
In this issue of Pulse, we introduce our IDEA Student Center and highlight some of the complementary programs that challenge and enrich the students in our engineering talent pipeline. I invite you, our alumni and friends, to engage with the IDEA Student Center - perhaps as a mentor or advisor to individual students or to a student organization. More information on connecting with Jacobs School students through the IDEA Student Center is on page 6 of this issue.