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
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.
Media Relations Director Smith
Director of Public Relations
Springfield Technical Community College