Smith College/Princeton University Exchange to Promote Women in Engineering
NORTHAMPTON, Mass.—Smith College, the nation’s first women’s college with an engineering program, has partnered with Princeton University to establish an exchange program for junior-year students that will expose students from both schools to vastly different learning environments and better prepare women to enter and succeed in the field of engineering.
Smith students and Princeton students, both male and female, who rank in the top 20 percent of their classes, are eligible for the spring-semester exchange, which will start in 2006.
“Students from both institutions will benefit greatly from the exchange experience given the unique academic and social environments at each institution,” said Joseph O’Rourke, interim director of Smith’s Picker Engineering Program. “The interaction between the two schools will enable both to enhance their students’ educational experiences and encourage more women to see engineering and applied science as a viable route for making significant contributions to society.”
Women remain grossly underrepresented in the field of engineering: five out of six engineering students, and nine out of ten engineering professors, are male. Yet the 135 Smith students in the Picker Engineering Program study with a faculty that is more than 50 percent female.
At Princeton, visiting Smith students will increase the presence of women seeking an engineering career, a goal to which the University is committed. Women now make up about 30 percent of the graduate and undergraduates studying engineering there while making up about 50 percent of all Princeton undergraduates.
“One of the major components of our newly created strategic vision is to increase the diversity of students and faculty in our engineering school,” said Maria Klawe, Princeton’s dean of engineering. “This is a wonderful partnership for both schools to explore approaches to what really makes engineering attractive to women and other underrepresented groups.”
At the same time, Princeton will provide Smith students the opportunity to work closely with faculty members and graduate students and courses at a major research institution. Smith does not have a graduate engineering program.
At Smith, Princeton students will experience an innovative engineering approach at a strong liberal arts college. The Picker Engineering Program has an ambitious engineering pedagogy that emphasizes the study of social responsibility and sustainability.
Students will take a normal load of courses at their host institution and may conduct an independent project. Special living arrangements will be made for any Princeton men electing to participate in the exchange; such accommodations are already common for male students who are in other exchange programs at Smith.
Smith’s first class of engineers, who graduated in 2004, earned admission to some of the nation’s top graduate programs—including Princeton, Harvard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cornell University, the University of Michigan, Dartmouth College and the University of California, Berkeley—and graduate fellowships from the National Science Foundation. Smith has the only engineering program in the country that has direct-entry agreements for top-performing students with the graduate schools of Dartmouth, Tufts University, the University of Michigan, Notre Dame University and Johns Hopkins University.
Consistently ranked among the nation’s foremost liberal arts colleges, Smith enrolls 2,800 students from every state and 60 countries and is the largest undergraduate women’s college in the country.
The Princeton School of Engineering and Applied Science is a small but influential program with a major emphasis on independent research and a well-rounded, multidisciplinary education. Undergraduate students work alongside faculty members and graduate students on cutting-edge projects with potential for substantial real-world impact. The school recently completed a strategic planning process that called for bold steps to educate leaders and create technologies that solve global societal problems. Increasing the diversity of students and faculty and creating more opportunities for women is a major part of these goals.
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