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Nov. 12, 2008

Springfield Technical Community College, Smith College and Springfield Public Schools are partnering to address the dearth of women and minorities in the profession.

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. – With a two-year federal grant, educators from two local colleges and the city’s public schools are partnering to improve early student achievement in the sciences and eventually increase the number of women and underrepresented populations pursuing engineering degrees.

Springfield Technical Community College (STCC), Smith College and the Springfield Public Schools joined together on the “Blueprint for Teaching Tomorrow’s Engineers Today,” an ambitious $300,000 initiative that leverages the Pioneer Valley’s educational resources.

Together, the institutions plan to provide teacher preparation and innovative curriculum design and delivery, to excite students about engineering.

“The call is loud and clear,” said Beth McGinnis-Cavanaugh, STCC associate professor of physics and the project’s leader. “A sustained and focused effort is necessary to attract and recruit female and minority students to engineering. Each institution involved in this project represents an on-ramp to the engineering pipeline.”

According to the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE), women earned just 19 percent of the engineering bachelor’s degrees in 2006 despite comprising 56 percent of the total undergraduate population. That year, African Americans and Hispanics earned 5 and 6 percent of bachelor’s degrees in engineering, respectively.

During the initial phase of the project, leaders plan to conduct a district-wide assessment of the science and engineering curriculum in the Springfield schools and, based on the information, develop a curriculum.

Specifically, they plan to provide materials and education about engineering to the 240 middle school teachers so that they can excite their students, a population of about 5,700.

Initially, the project will recruit at least 15 teachers to attend STCC summer engineering program in 2009, and another 20 in 2010.

Project leaders also plan to develop connections with local businesses and industries to encourage opportunities for employment and internships for students.

Increasing the numbers of women and minorities in engineering “doesn’t start at the graduate level, it begins with children,” said Glenn Ellis, Smith College associate professor of engineering and a project team leader. “One of my research areas is how we present the role of engineers and engineering effectively to younger students, how we make this field appealing and accessible to girls as well as boys.”

McGinnis-Cavanaugh, Ellis and Ronald St. Amand, director of science in the Springfield Public Schools form the leadership team that will meet monthly throughout the next two years, collect information and develop curriculum.

Other supporting partners on the project include the Western Mass Society of Civil Engineers, the National Center for Information and Communications Technologies at STCC and the University of Massachusetts’ Donahue Institute. The Donahue Institute will conduct an external evaluation of the program.

Springfield Technical Community College, a leader in technology and instructional innovation, transforms lives through educational opportunities that promote personal and professional success.

Smith College educates women of promise for lives of distinction. One of the largest women’s colleges in the United States, Smith enrolls 2,800 students from nearly every state and 62 other countries.



Kristen Cole
Media Relations Director                    Smith College
413 585-2190              

Setta McCabe
Director of Public Relations
Springfield Technical Community College
413 755-5179


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