Engineering deans, led by FIU’s Amir Mirmiran, presented a bold plan to lawmakers in Washington, D.C., today designed to increase the number of under-represented minorities in engineering by more than 60 percent by 2025.
While the number of engineering graduates in the U.S. has remained constant for the last two decades, the number of minorities among high school graduates is on the rise. That makes increasing participation in engineering among under-represented groups an obvious target, said Mirmiran, dean of FIU’s College of Engineering and Computing, whose remarks opened Wednesday’s Capitol Hill briefing.
U.S. Representatives Frederica Wilson of Miami and Silvestre Reyes of Texas attended the briefing and emphasized the need for a more focused effort by urban universities aimed at increasing the number of minority engineers, including women. U.S. Representative Mario Diaz-Balart of Florida and Judy Chu of California also partnered to make the briefing possible. Deans Richard Schoephoerster of University of Texas at El Paso, Keith Moo-Young of California State University, Los Angeles and Peter Kilpatrick of University of Notre Dame, also spoke.
“As a nation we are facing a competitive disadvantage in the areas of engineering and the sciences,” said Mirmiran. “We can bridge that gap if we focus on recruiting students who have not traditionally gravitated to engineering, many of them minorities that may be the first in their family to go to college.”
The group of deans have formed the Consortium of Minority-Serving Engineering and Technology Programs at Urban, Public Universities, which argues that to significantly contribute to the future economic well-being and security of the nation, and to achieve the Obama administration’s target of doubling the total number of engineering graduates, it is essential to increase the percentage of under-represented minorities with engineering degrees from 12.4 percent to at least 20 percent by 2025 – a 61 percent increase.
The consortium proposes to establish a national model to significantly engage under-represented minorities in urban settings in engineering careers. The consortium will focus on:
- Creation of new “GI Bill” for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.
- Actively engaging engineering graduates in K-12 engineering education.
- Making engineering more attractive as a major.
- Partnerships between industry and engineering schools through internships.
- Faculty development and recruitment to share best practices.
The development of the consortium follows a National Science Foundation-sponsored workshop led by FIU last spring in Miami, which included leaders from minority-serving institutions, school districts, community colleges, industry, government and non-profits. A report form that workshop warned of a decreasing interest in engineering careers and a growing competiveness gap in technology, as well as an urgent need to broaden participation in engineering within under-represented groups.