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Preparing Women As Engineering Leaders Is Shared Concern

Editor's note: Rose Mary Farenden, director of global recruiting at Ford Motor Company, will visit the Smith campus at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 24, to present a check to leaders of the college's engineering program. Reporters and photographers are invited to the presentation ceremony, which will take place in Seelye 207. Immediately following the ceremony, Farenden will present a public lecture on corporate opportunities in engineering, as part of the Smith engineering program's "Executive Access" series.

Demonstrating a strong commitment to innovative approaches for bringing women into engineering, Ford Motor Company has pledged $2.5 million in support of the nation's first engineering program at a women's college.
The five-year grant is the largest corporate commitment to date to Smith College's recently established Picker Program in Engineering and Technology.

"Ford wants more women to consider engineering as a career, and we're excited about Smith College's approach," said Rose Mary Farenden, Ford's recruiting director, who championed Smith's application to the company's College Relations Sponsor Program (CRSP). Smith is the first liberal arts college to be invited to apply for funding from the CRSP, which aims to create long-term partnerships between the company and selected higher education institutions.

"We're looking for leadership and growth for our company," continued Farenden, who was chief engineer for the Ford Focus, a car-of-the-year honoree in both Europe and North America.

"We can't get there without women as leaders. And we need many of our future women leaders to be engineers."

Established in February 1999, Smith's engineering program is focused on developing broadly educated, well-rounded engineers capable of assuming leadership roles in corporations, non-profit organizations and technology-related fields. The program's unprecedented linkage of engineering education and the liberal arts is expected to attract -- and graduate -- women not only strong in scientific and technical aptitude but also capable of exceptional creativity and humanistic understanding.

Recruiting exceptional aspiring engineers to Smith will be an initial focus of the Ford funding.

Following a year of publicity and outreach, the college expects to name four Ford Scholars a year, beginning in fall 2001. Ford Scholars, selected on the basis of academic performance and dedication to engineering careers, will receive full scholarships to Smith for four years and will be supplied with laptop computers.

In addition, the Ford gift will help provide start-up funds for faculty research and teaching programs as well as support sabbatical leaves for distinguished faculty members from other institutions to spend time at Smith. To help opportunities available to Smith engineering students beyond the campus, the gift also will fund library acquisitions, a seminar series designed to bring corporate leaders to the Smith campus, a state-of-the-art videoconferencing facility and satellite and Internet links between Smith and Ford's research laboratories and design centers around the world.

"Ford's leadership support and endorsement of our innovative program will provide unparalleled opportunities for our students," explained Professor Domenico Grasso, founding chair of the engineering program at Smith. "The opportunities associated with this generous gift would more commonly be diffused among many students in larger colleges of engineering. Here at Smith, our small class sizes will allow for a truly unique and enriching educational experience."

Funding from Ford will also support projects exemplifying Smith's commitment to integrating engineering with the liberal arts.

Cross-disciplinary teams of faculty members from fields such as economics, history, environmental studies, sociology, physics and engineering will apply for funding to pursue two-year research projects. Project topics might include "developing a green auto," "diversifying the engineering workplace" or "promoting sustainable development through industrial ecology." Representatives from Ford will serve on the project selection committee.
Smith College has been noted for a number of highly regarded programs in the sciences. Typically, 25 to 30 percent of Smith students major in the sciences, a rate nearly three times larger than the national average. In the engineering program's first year, some 48 students applied for 25 available spots, indicating significant interest in the program even prior to extensive recruiting.

Smith College is consistently ranked among the nation's best liberal arts colleges. Enrolling 2,800 students from every state and 50 other countries, Smith is the largest undergraduate women's college in the United States.


Laurie Fenlason, Media Relations Director, Smith College,, (413) 585-2190

Gwynne M. Irvin, Global News, Ford Motor Company, (313) 323-0646,

October 11, 2000


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