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Program to Encourage More Women in Engineering

A partnership between the Princeton University School of Engineering and Applied Science and Smith -- the nation’s first women’s college to offer an engineering degree -- 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 junior-year students in the Picker Engineering Program 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.

“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,” says Joseph O’Rourke, interim director of the Picker program.

At Princeton, visiting Smith students will increase the presence of women seeking an engineering career, a goal to which the university is committed. Women there make up about 30 percent of the graduates and undergraduates studying engineering. Visiting Smith women get the opportunity to study at a major research institution and to work closely with the faculty members and graduate students there.

At Smith, Princeton students will experience an innovative and interdisciplinary engineering curriculum, which is embedded in the liberal arts and emphasizes the study of social responsibility and sustainability. Special living arrangements will be made for Princeton men participating in the exchange; such accommodations are already available for male students who study at Smith through existing exchange programs.

Women are surprisingly 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 program study with a faculty that is more than 50 percent female. Smith is dedicated to recruiting more women and supporting their scholarship as they prepare for careers in the field.

Smith’s first class of 20 engineers graduated in 2004 and most earned admission to some of the nation’s top graduate programs; several received graduate fellowships from the National Science Foundation. The class of 2005 graduates in May.

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