University of Pittsburgh
February 24, 2002

Pitt Ranks First for Blacks, Top Tier for Women, In Engineering Education

Contact:  412-624-4147

February 25, 2002

PITTSBURGH—The University of Pittsburgh School of Engineering's commitment to recruiting women and minorities is working, as evidenced by a study conducted by the Engineering Workforce Commission of the American Association of Engineering Societies, Inc. (AAES).

The study found that, in 2001, Pitt's engineering program ranked first in the state in total number of African American engineering graduates, first in bachelor of science degrees awarded to African Americans, and first in doctorates to African Americans.

Nationally, Pitt ranked third—out of more than 600 schools the AAES surveyed in the United States—in the number of engineering doctorates awarded to African Americans and tied for 22nd in both the number of engineering bachelor of science degrees and in the overall number of engineering degrees awarded to African Americans.

Pitt was ranked third in the state in the number of women awarded bachelor of science degrees and in the number of doctorates conferred on women. Nationally, the school was tied for 17th in the number of women who earned doctorates in engineering and 43rd in the number of bachelor of science degrees awarded.

"What makes these rankings all the more satisfying is that we are performing as well as some of the other leading engineering schools in Pennsylvania," says Gerald D. Holder, USX Dean of the School of Engineering. "This report validates the efforts we have put into recruiting and retaining women and minority students."

Indeed, while Pitt's engineering school's total enrollment—graduate and undergraduate—is about 2,300 every year, schools such as Penn State, the University of Michigan, the University of Illinois, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology are two to four times its size.

"Considering all the very good engineering schools in Pennsylvania, including Penn, Drexel, Carnegie Mellon, Penn State, and Lehigh, these are excellent results," Holder says.

Some of the school's diversity efforts have been in place for more than 30 years, while others are more recent innovations developed by Sylvanus N. Nwosu, assistant dean for diversity and professor of mechanical engineering at the school.

Two linchpins of the School of Engineering's diversity efforts—one new, one old—come under Nwosu's purview in the Minority Programs for Academic Enhancement and Recruitment.

The new program is the Minority Engineering Mentoring Program (MEMP), which identifies women and underrepresented minority or academically disadvantaged students and prepares them for graduate education in engineering.

MEMP, which was launched in October 2001 with start-up funding from Jack Daniel, Pitt vice provost for academic affairs, interim dean of students, and professor of communications, currently has 10 students and eight mentors.

"MEMP is a systematic mentoring partnership that provides students with a role model and a brain to pick," says Nwosu, who came to Pitt two years ago, after developing successful educational programs at Dillard University.

Elements of the program include continuous performance evaluation to ensure that difficulties are identified and rectified quickly; participation in meaningful engineering research projects; attendance at career workshops and team-building and diversity education programs; and cognitive skills, performance, and diagnostic assessments.

The oldest of the engineering school's minority programs—the University of Pittsburgh Engineering Impact Program (Pitt IEP)—was started in 1971 by Karl Lewis, William Kepler Whiteford Faculty Fellow and associate professor of civil and environmental engineering.

Pitt IEP, sponsored through the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania's Act 101, recruits, retains, and helps underrepresented and economically disadvantaged students graduate. Pitt IEP begins with a six-week, precollege "bridge" program during the summer. The intensive program prepares students for the transition from high school to college by teaching study methods and time management skills, as well as offering courses in calculus, physics, chemistry, engineering, computer science, research methods, and technical writing.

Students can be conditionally admitted to Pitt's School of Engineering, and successful completion of the program guarantees enrollment. Those who are less successful still can be admitted to Pitt's University Challenge for Excellence Program and can reapply to the School of Engineering after a year. The program also is available, and recommended, for students directly admitted to the school.

Pitt IEP also provides subject and academic tutoring, academic and career advising, scholarship search, and financial assistance, as well as help securing summer internships and advising students on career development.

Other support mechanisms for minority and women engineering students include student chapters of the National Society of Black Engineers, the Society of Women Engineers, and the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers.