Friday, October 7, 2016

An Interview with Carina Olaru, Director of Latino Cultural Center

Carina Olaru is an educator first. She started as an associate professor of Modern Languages, teaching Spanish and Portuguese, at a small liberal arts college in Illinois. There, she was the only domestic professor of color. This led to many minority students reaching out to her and sparking her desire to increase diversity awareness on college campuses.  She started many programs at her prior university before starting at the director of Purdue’s Latino Cultural Center this July. She has been director for just about two months and is already making big waves her on campus. She intends to raise the visibility of the center and Latino students on campus. Her goals are to empower student, faculty, and staff and be a resource for the university as well as the West Lafayette and Lafayette communities. She also wants to assist the university in recruiting and retaining minority students.
            Carina Olaru believes all the cultural centers are important. In her opinion, they “represent the underrepresented” and work hard to provide a space for minority students. The cultural centers create a community, so students of minority groups don’t feel like they are the only ones. Olaru believes the cultural centers are integral to helping students graduate on time and to recruit and retain Purdue students. She praises the cultural centers on their level of collaboration. She says the centers aren’t afraid to work with one another, because they all come from the same place, and have the same goals. Carina Olaru is very proud of the cultural centers here on Purdue’s campus.

            For students interested in getting involved with the Latino Cultural Center, Olaru says the center is “what you make of it.” The center is located on north Russel street and is fully equipped with a lounge, conference room, fully-functional kitchen, as well as an ITaP computer lab and a sand volleyball court outside. “Students are more than welcome to just stop by between classes,” says Olaru, “some even nap in our lounge on the couches.” The center is open 9am-9pm Monday – Thursday, and 9am-5pm on Friday. Student organizations are able to reserve their conference room by making a reservation on their website. The center will be offering a variety of events this semester. From Spanish conversation tables, to theatre performances, and Los Dios de Los Muertos processional on October 27th. Each cultural center will have an alter to honor loved ones past, leading to the Latino Cultural Center, who will have their own alter, as well as activities and food, and the alter of the LGBTQ Center. All events hosted by the LCC are free and open to the public. Carina Olaru stresses that “everyone is welcome here,” and that the Latino Cultural Center is to serve as a home for Purdue Students. Check their website for a keep up with events and see what is happening next.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Emily Thomas: Fifth-Year Chemical Engineering Student

Emily Thomas is a fifth-year Chemical Engineering student at Purdue University. She chose Purdue because it was the first school that introduced her to what engineering is. When choosing a university, she says “it was important to me that I was challenged and that it had a plethora of opportunity and resources.” And she found that Purdue could offer her both. As she is in the middle of her last semester at Purdue, Emily says “my college career has been very fulfilling.” She has had the opportunity to participate in internships, co-ops, organizations on campus, and study abroad.

After graduation, Emily will be beginning a job at Emerson. She has been hired into the Engineers in Leadership Program which is a 2-year program that will allow her to work in various roles throughout the company in order to gain experience in several positions. This program also gives Emily the opportunity to work abroad in Singapore for a year which she says “is an opportunity I am looking forward to!”

Why engineering? Emily says “one of the best explanations I’ve heard about the difference between a scientist and an engineer is that a scientist asks why and an engineer asks why not.” She chose Chemical Engineering because “I realize that I have always asked why not when viewing and experiencing the world. My overall career goal is to be a conduit to help others and help people reach and realize their full potential. I plan on using my problem solving and analytical skills that I learned from engineering to change the world and to continue to ask why not.”

Sunday, February 21, 2016

HISTORY HIGHLIGHT: MEP Salutes the Memory of Mr. Edward Barnett for Laying the Foundation for the Purdue Black Society of Engineers.

Edward Barnett, a member of Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity was a founding father of the Purdue University Black Society of Engineers. After Ed graduated from Purdue, six engineering students from Chicago led a national effort to launch the Purdue model nation-wide. The rest is history. Read more about The National Society of Black Engineers.

In 1971, two Purdue undergraduate students, Edward Barnette (now deceased) and Fred Cooper approached the dean of engineering at Purdue University with the concept of starting the Black Society of Engineers (BSE). They wanted to establish a student organization to help improve the recruitment and retention of black engineering students. In the late 1960’s, a devastating 80 percent of the black freshmen entering the engineering program dropped out after the first year. The dean agreed to the idea and assigned the only black faculty member on staff, Arthur J. Bond, as advisor.
Ed Barnett served as the first president of the BSE. The Society met at what was then called the "Black House", now known at the Black Cultural Center at Purdue. Engineering students were expected to meet in the library daily to complete their homework and/or prepare for exams together. No one stood alone and everyone looked out for each other.  The Society became the strongest and most cohesive academic group on campus for black engineering students. Ed Barnett and Fred Cooper graduated and became corporate supporters of the students at Purdue. The activities of the members of the Black Society of Engineers resulted in increased retention and increased enrollment. In 1974, with the direction and encouragement of their advisor, Arthur J. Bond a leader within the group, Mr. Anthony Harris, led the initiative to explore the opportunity to make what was happening at Purdue a national standard. Under the leadership of Harris, the organization's name changed from the Black Society of Engineers to the Society of Black Engineers Several engineering universities had similar groups on their campuses and Anthony Harris, along with five friends from Chicago, now known as the "Chicago Six" challenged Purdue's membership to rise to the challenge of hosting this very important meeting and realizing a common goal to impact the nation. Anthony Harris, president of the Purdue chapter, wrote a letter to the presidents and deans of every accredited engineering program in the country (288), explained the Society of Black Engineers (SBE) concept, shared the retention successes experienced at Purdue, and asked them to identify black student leaders, organizations and faculty members who might be interested in attending a meeting at Purdue to support the effort of creating a national presence. The President of Purdue University at the time was Dr. Arthur G. Hansen who encouraged the initiative and became an key enabler during the formative stages of the National Society of Black Engineers.

Approximately 80 schools responded. Many had similar Black student organizations with similar objectives. A date was set for the first national meeting and 48 students representing 32 schools attended. Students from all over the nation and Canada drove during dangerous times through many states and deep into the cornfields of West Lafayette, Indiana to change the destiny of thousands. They risked personal safety and braved the challenge to pioneer a new venture that would impact the lives of African American children who otherwise might not have an opportunity to pursue engineering.  From April 10-12, 1975 the students from across the nation and the engineering students at Purdue University networked, bonded, and came to a conclusion that would affect the lives of thousands in years to come. All in attendance are credited with the birth of a new organization: The National Society of Black Engineers. The six engineering students from Purdue University that were key in bringing this event to fruition were Anthony Harris, Brian Harris, Stanley L. Kirtley, John W. Logan, Jr., Edward A. Coleman, and George A. Smith. There ware several engineering students on Purdue's campus that helped facilitate the event.  Their names are not mentioned here, however their impact was critical to the success of this effort.
It was at that historic meeting through majority vote, that The Society of Black Engineers became the National Society of Black Engineers. The NSBE logo was chosen and it remains a distinctively recognizable symbol representing the premier technical organization for African American engineering students and professionals worldwide. The NSBE logo consists of a lit torch with the letters 'S' 'B' and 'E' in the handle of the torch. There are two lightening bolts crossing in the middle of the torch.  Both are superimposed over the letter 'N' indicating national impact. The torch symbolizes lighting the way. The fire represents the members’ everlasting, burning desire to achieve success in a competitive society. The 'N' represents the national scope of positively affect ingthe quality of life for all people. The lightening bolts represent the striking impact (in all directions) that will be felt by the society and industry due to the contributions and accomplishments made by the dedicated members of the National Society of Black Engineers.

NSBE was eventually incorporated in Texas, in 1976 as 501©3 non-profit organization. John Cason, also of Purdue, served as the first elected president of NSBE. During the critical formative years, Virginia Booth, with the endorsement and encouragement of Purdue's President Arthur G. Hansen became the first female National Chairperson and the first to serve two terms 1978-1980. Under her leadership and mentorship of Dr. Arthur Hansen, Virginia Booth and the 1978 NSBE Executive Board led the chartering process for new chapters. That year, the chartered membership for the organization grew exponentially making NSBE a recognized presence on predominately white campuses. The organization grew from a few chapters to more than 50 chapters in 1978.  During Ms. Booth's second term of office more chapters were added in 1979 and a national agenda was framed.  NSBE has since grown from six to over 35,000 members within the United States and abroad. It has membership in countries all over the world, including Ghana, Nigeria, Canada, Germany, China, Jamaica, Trinidad, and others.  NSBE World Headquarters is located in Alexandria, Virginia.  

NSBE was born during an era where conditions for African Americans were dismal. It's genesis was after the death of great leaders, including President John F. Kennedy, Senator Robert Kennedy, Dr. Martin Luther King, and Malcolm X. In the heart of the civil rights movement, the atmosphere at Purdue University provided a catalyst for bringing about change in the 1970's. Today, the same university is determined to continue to IMPACT the world!

To the Edward Barnett's and Fred Coopers across the country that championed unity at their respective campuses, to the 'Chicago Six' who braved the nay-sayers and pressed the organization at Purdue to embrace and expand its borders, to the pioneers who braved the journey to come to Purdue to create a national body for positive change, many continue to express their thanks.

Monday, February 15, 2016

DeLean Tolbert PhD Student: Engineering Education

DeLean Tolbert is a 4th year PhD student studying Engineering Education. Her main reason for choosing Purdue was the INSPIRE Research Institute for Pre-College Engineering Education Research. The INSPIRE institute at Purdue focuses on “pre-college engineering education research and integration with science, technology, mathematics, and literacy.” The School of Engineering Education at Purdue is the first program in the world of its kind. DeLean comments “I really liked what Purdue had to offer. I am happy with my decision.” Her favorite part of Purdue includes “the relationships that I have formed during my time here. I really love people and love learning about people.”

While an undergrad, DeLean had several internship opportunities through NSBE, Inroads, and her personal mentors that include interning at GE-Transportation, DTE Energy, Verizon Wireless, and the Detroit Area Pre-College Engineering Program (DAPCEP). She adds “I have also done tons of research. I just love it!!”

After graduation, DeLean is looking into finding a faculty position. She says “we need more faculty members of color in our colleges of engineering. I really hope to show other students like me that we can be in positions like that.” DeLean would also like to open a family business with her siblings and travel the world. Her dream job includes serving as a liaison between various communities and becoming an advocate for reconciliation and collaboration. “Regardless of my job, I want to be a bridge builder.”

On campus, DeLean is involved with National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE), Collegians for Jesus, Chi Alpha, and Black Graduate Student Association (BGSA). During her free moments, she enjoys spending time with her family and learning to play the keyboard, which she plays for her Bible Study. DeLean’s passion for her work and her love of life are contagious. She says it best herself: “I have learned to give credit where it is due. So I thank God for the opportunity to come to Purdue, to learn and to meet so many people from different walks of life. Keep moving forward! You will make mistakes along the way. Of course, work to make things right but don’t let that keep you down. Remember to celebrate your accomplishments. We’ve got work to do.”

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Nicole Pitterson, PhD, Engineering Education

Nicole Pitterson recently graduated with a PhD in Engineering Education from Purdue University, with background degrees in both Electrical and Manufacturing Engineering. During her studies here at Purdue, Nicole was involved in various engineering organizations such as the American Society for Engineering Education and Women in Engineering, along with other groups such as the Black Graduate Student Association, Adventist Collegiate Fellowship at Purdue, and Boiler OUT - a group focused on engaging in community service projects that focus on outreach, understanding, and teamwork. Nicole was also involved in the Minority Engineering Program during her time at Purdue. When reflecting on her time with MEP, Nicole responds, “I really appreciated the support and engagement I received from being involved with the MEP summer programs and subsequent interactions through the academic year.” After graduating in December, Nicole is currently working as a postdoctoral scholar at Oregon State University.

Friday, December 4, 2015

DTA Winners Receive Funding to Enhance Diversity

After two rounds of presentations to faculty panelists, nine initiatives have been selected by Purdue's Diversity Leadership Team to receive the Diversity Transformation Award (DTA). Several other projects will be supported through other mechanisms.

"I congratulate the faculty and staff members who developed the winning DTA initiatives and thank everyone who submitted proposals to help us advance diversity at Purdue," says Provost Deba Dutta. "This program is one step in a portfolio of initiatives that you will see coming out of the Office of the Provost to create a more welcoming and inclusive campus climate."

The DTA awards were created by the Office of the Provost to enhance recruitment, enrollment, and retention of underrepresented minority (URM) students, faculty and staff, and to study factors affecting inclusiveness and success of URM students and faculty. Sixty-six faculty teams responded and $1 million in funding will support the DTA initiatives. Additional projects that were not among the nine selected will be supported through other mechanisms to expand the reach of diversity and inclusion initiatives.

"We were impressed by both the number and variety of submissions," says Mark J.T. Smith, a member of the Diversity Leadership Team and dean of the Graduate School. "We had planned to fund 5-8 proposals. However, given the breadth and quality of ideas, we tried to stretch the $1 million as far as we could and found that we could support nine of these excellent submissions."
The nine initiatives selected for DTA funding, shown with principal investigator, brief description and list of team members, follow. Please note: Order does not indicate ranking.

Strengthening the Purdue Pipeline for Underrepresented Minority Student Matriculation: Addressing Financial Constraints, Improving Retention, and Assessing Student Experiences

PI: Anil Bajaj, William E. and Florence E. Perry Head of Mechanical Engineering and Alpha P. Jamison Professor of Mechanical of Engineering.

The goals of this initiative are to broaden the pool of underrepresented minority students through Minority Engineering Program pre-college engagement of in-state and scholarship-bearing students; develop a sophomore bridge program to improve transition into Mechanical Engineering (ME); develop a rotation program with student financial support to strengthen diversity and inclusion within the ME community; conduct an ethnographic study of student experiences; and initiate internal processes to develop resources for long-term sustainability.

Team members: George Chiu, professor, Mechanical Engineering; Patricia Davies, professor, ME; Nicole Key, associate professor, ME; Eric Nauman, professor, ME; Tahira Reid, assistant professor, ME; Virginia Booth-Womack, director, Minority Engineering Program; Darryl Dickerson, associate director, MEP; Jim Jones, associate head, ME.

Purdue Agriculture Family Programs: A College Experience for Parents

PI: Marcos Fernandez, associate dean, director of academic programs, College of Agriculture.

Parents play a large role in a student's decision to attend a college, especially in families of URM and first-generation students. This program collaborates with Purdue Extension from select counties to identify, communicate and invite parents to campus for an immersive, two-day residential "Boilermaker Family College" experience aimed at demonstrating and sharing the student experience at Purdue, including information on applying, enrolling and succeeding.

Team member: Tyson McFall, academic advisor, Botany and Plant Pathology

Chemistry Diversity Initiative: A Graduate Student Program for Success

PI: Jean Chmielewski, Alice Watson Kramer Distinguished Professor of Chemistry.

This program is composed of three phases: attracting applicants from targeted universities; mentoring students through the acceptance process; and a mentoring plan designed for the successful matriculation and professional development of these students through the graduate program.  The team will partner with the Graduate School, the College of Science, and summer research programs to leverage existing strengths.

Team members: Jon Wilker, professor, Chemistry; Corey Thompson, assistant professor, Chemistry; Christopher Pulliam, graduate student, Chemistry; Colby Adolph, graduate student, Chemistry; Stella Betancourt, graduate student, Chemistry; Phil Wyss, programming specialist/staff, Chemistry; Suzanne Bart, professor, Chemistry; Candice Kissinger, assistant head, Chemistry; Dwight Lewis, director, Multicultural Programs, Graduate School; Zenephia Evans, director, Science Diversity Office; Kathy Dixon, program director, AGEP/SROP, Graduate School; Susan Mendrysa, associate professor/co-director, Veterinary Medicine.

Building Partnerships with Historically Black Colleges and Universities: Graduate Faculty Diversity Ambassador Program

PI: Shawn Donkin, professor and assistant dean, College of Agriculture.

A networking platform will be created between faculty in the College of Agriculture and select historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) using two-way exchanges. This not only will expand research capacity at both institutions, but also will break down perceived barriers at each institution around cross-training, transferring, and recruiting the best and brightest graduate students.

Team members: Theresa Casey, research assistant professor, Animal Sciences; Jenna Rickus, professor, Agricultural and Biological Engineering; Kevin Solomon, assistant professor, ABE; Margaret Gitau, associate professor, ABE; Humaira Gowher, assistant professor, Biochemistry; Orla Hart, clinical assistant professor, Biochemistry; Myron McClure, assistant director, Office of Multicultural Programs, Agriculture; Kola Ajuwon, associate professor, Animal Sciences.

Building a Positive Campus Diversity Climate through the Inclusion of Individuals with Concealable Identities: A Curricular Approach

PI: Deborah Rupp, professor and William C. Byham Chair in industrial/organizational psychology.

Diversity initiatives often focus on the recruitment and inclusion of traditionally underrepresented groups (e.g., women, persons of color, those with visible disabilities), and sometimes fail to account for individuals who face stigma and prejudice, but whose minority identity may not be readily apparent (e.g., LGBTQ individuals, those with invisible disabilities, and racial minorities whose minority status is not obvious). To increase awareness and acceptance of these groups, this yearlong project is aimed at developing evidence-based and intervention-focused curricular modules for undergraduate and graduate courses (initially in Psychology) focused on invisible stigma, diversity, and inclusion.

The project is being led by Deborah Rupp and Drew Mallory in the Purdue Department of Psychological Sciences, in strategic partnership with Purdue's LGBTQ Center, Latino Cultural Center, Disability Resource Center, Human Resources and the Office of Institutional Equity. Additional targeted strategic partners include the Black Cultural Center, Boiler Gold Rush, the Native American Educational and Cultural Center, and Purdue Fraternity, Sorority, and Cooperative Life.

Pathways to Increased Diversity for Grad School and the Professoriate

PI: Audeen Fentiman, associate dean of graduate education and interdisciplinary programs, Engineering; professor of nuclear engineering.

The College of Engineering will build on relationships with faculty members at minority serving institutions (MSIs) to increase the number of underrepresented minority students enrolling in engineering graduate programs. Selected undergraduate students from MSIs will spend two summers conducting research with mentors from Purdue and the MSI and taking Purdue courses, preparing for success in graduate school at Purdue. Faculty members will conduct research to identify mentoring and professional development activities effective in fostering a successful career in academia.

Team members: Virginia Booth-Womack, director, Minority Engineering Program; Phillip Dunston, professor, Civil Engineering; Susan Fisher, professional development and diversity specialist, Engineering.

Four Directions: Building a Foundation for Native Scholars

PI: Dawn Marsh, associate professor of history.

This program aims to increase Native American faculty and students at Purdue. A program of postdoctoral positions will be filled through partnerships with Native communities, tribal colleges, and research universities; postdoctoral fellows will then become candidates for Purdue faculty. The team will develop a certificate in applied indigenous studies and focus on faculty hiring through opportunity or cluster hires. The program will build on the success of the Sloan Foundation Indigenous Graduate Partnership and the Native American Educational and Cultural Center by integrating recruitment of Native scholars at all levels to launch Purdue's Native students into effective careers.

Team members: Ken Ridgway, professor, Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences; Kerry Rabenold, professor, Biology; Kory Cooper, associate professor, Anthropology; Stephanie Zywicki, assistant professor, Curriculum Studies; Felica Ahasteen-Bryant, director, NAECC; Darryl Reano, doctoral student, EAPS; Wai Allen, master's student, EAPS.

Post-Baccalaureate Research Education Program (PREP) for Biomedical Sciences

PI: Susan Mendrysa, associate professor, Basic Medical Sciences.

This program includes a postbaccalaureate program (PREP) targeted at recent college graduates from groups underrepresented in biomedical sciences who have high potential for science yet lack the necessary research experience or may need additional upper-level coursework for successful entry and timely progression through a PhD program. A pilot PREP will be established in the College of Veterinary Medicine. Data from the pilot PREP will be used to support submission of a 5-year NIH R25 (PREP) which, if successful, will provide ~$400K/year for program expansion.

Team members: Marxa Figueiredo, assistant professor, Basic Medical Sciences; Kauline Cipriani, director of diversity initiatives, Veterinary Medicine; Colleen Gabauer, director of interdisciplinary graduate programs, Graduate School; Cynthia Lynch, director of fellowship and professional development, Graduate School; Willie Burgess, managing director, Discovery Learning Research Center.

Promoting Student Inclusion: An Evidence-Based Program for Transforming Purdue's Climate

PI: Margo Monteith, professor of psychological sciences.

While underrepresented minority students question whether they belong and are respected at Purdue, majority group students lack intergroup experience and are prone to implicit bias. This program will instill intergroup-approach motivation, emphasizing egalitarianism and mutual respect to create engagement, learning, and competence. Professionally developed videos will model strategies from both underrepresented and majority students' perspectives that facilitate positive intergroup experiences. Creating a more inclusive and interculturally competent climate will strengthen Purdue's recruitment, retention, and engagement.

Team members: Evelyn Carter, postdoctoral fellow, Psychological Sciences; Erin Hennes, assistant professor, Psychological Sciences; Richard Rand, professor, Visual and Performing Arts; Zenephia Evans, director, Science Diversity Office; Elizabeth Holloway, director, Women in Engineering Program.

DTA presentations began on Oct. 19 with 66 submissions from faculty teams. The round one format included a 5-minute live presentation by the faculty principal investigator or team designee followed by a 5-minute question-and-answer period with a judging panel made up of faculty members from each college.

The round one submissions were split into two groups and presented in front of two judging panels so they could be completed in a single day. Each presentation was evaluated on its overall potential positive impact on the university. Each judging panel chose 10 finalists to move forward to the final round.

The 5-minute presentations from round one are available for viewing here with Purdue ID and password.

The round two format was similar to round one, with presentations extended to 8 minutes and question-and-answer periods extended to 7 minutes. Presenters in round two addressed issues that were cited in the feedback they received from their earlier presentations.

The round two presentations can be viewed here with Purdue ID and password.
Members of the judging panels for both rounds spent many hours listening to DTA presentations, asking questions and collectively discussing the merits of each.
"I am deeply grateful for the commitment of the panelists," says Provost Dutta. "Their participation was entirely voluntary and the time and energy they devoted to this initiative proves the far-reaching interest in enhancing diversity at Purdue." 

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Much Accomplished, Much Yet to Do

By: Amy Raley

In the late 1960s, four out of five black freshmen in Purdue’s engineering school were dropping out. Two undergraduate black students stepped up to stop the trend. The late Edward Barnette (IDE ’72) and Fred Cooper (BSEE ’74) approached engineering dean John Hancock with the idea of starting the Black Society of Engineers (BSE). The dean agreed and assigned Purdue’s one black engineering faculty member, Arthur Bond, to be the group’s advisor. In 1971, the BSE was born, and Barnette was its first president.
Cooper, who attended Purdue on a full football scholarship, served as BSE president for two years (1972-74) and was co-captain of the football team his senior year.

 After successfully meeting the challenges of his obligations to Purdue’s rigorous engineering curriculum and its Big Ten football program, he was picked by the Detroit Lions in the sixth round of the NFL draft. He remembers the satisfaction that came from managing his hard work in class and on the team, but also from helping his fellow engineering students.

“There were about 15 of us who started the society,” Cooper says. “Our No. 1 objective was to make sure everyone who enrolled in the engineering program graduated. It wasn’t ’if’ you were having problems in class, it was ’which ones.’ People were often afraid to ask for help, so we set up study sessions in the evenings for students to get help and study together.”

After Barnette and Cooper graduated, new chapter officers of the Black Society of Engineers included six young men recruited from Chicago. Edward Coleman, Brian Harris, Tony Harris, Stanley Kirtley (deceased), John Logan Jr. (deceased), and George Smith would later become known as the “Chicago Six” and the founders of the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE).

With the student initiative supported at all levels of the Purdue administration, Purdue’s black engineering students were succeeding and graduating in increasing numbers. It was a turning point for Purdue’s underrepresented minority engineering students that continues to impact students today.

Tony Harris (BSME ’75), now president and CEO of the Campbell/Harris Security Equipment Co., Alameda, California, was among students who helped found NSBE, and is currently chair of its national advisory board. He remembers well his time at Purdue in the early ’70s.

“There were very few black students; we had 25 blacks in my class, and there were only two African-American women,” Harris says. “Most were on assistance and below the poverty line. There were even fewer black engineering grad students — only one in the PhD program in engineering when I first got there.”

Harris says affirmative action programs were getting underway around the country at the time, as the federal government advocated for minority programs in higher education. He easily recalls the three basic questions that formed the mandate for him and his fellow Purdue black engineering students: “‘How do we keep from flunking out?’ ‘How do we get a job?’ and ‘How do we get other students to come into the pipeline?’”
Today, according to Virginia Booth-Womack, director of the Purdue Minority Engineering Program (MEP), there are 770 underrepresented minority engineering undergraduate and graduate students enrolled at Purdue, approximately 270 of which are African-Americans. The number of students has increased since 1974, but she says there is still work to do. MEP casts a wider net than what was cast in the ’70s by reaching out to all underrepresented minorities, which are defined as African-Americans, Hispanics and Native Americans.

Beyond student recruitment and retention services that are available to all students, MEP employs extensive outreach programs to encourage middle school and high school students to enroll at Purdue, and to prepare them for the academic rigors of Purdue’s engineering curriculum.

“We have touched more than 8,200 sixth- to 12th-grade underrepresented minorities through our Summer Engineering Workshops at Purdue,” Womack says.

During the summer before students’ first semester, MEP offers its Engineering Academic Boot Camp program. The five-week, first-semester simulation familiarizes students with the Purdue climate, and the academic rigors and pace of First-Year Engineering. Students are introduced to campus and student life, and overcome the cultural shock that often is part of being underrpresented on campus.

Womack acknowledges that despite the expanded programs and giant strides that Purdue’s MEP and NSBE have made with successful outreach and academic success programs in 40 years, affordability remains a challenge.

“Over the past four decades, we have seen a shift in student access and success as tuition has changed drastically from the rates of the 1970s,” she says. “College affordability has impacted the number of students that choose to come to Purdue. We are seeing lower yield numbers for underrepresented minorities, especially those who accept better offers elsewhere. We are hopeful that Purdue’s increased focus on affordability through scholarship offerings, internships and focused giving will make a difference.”

MEP supports student academic success before and after enrollment. Students who also join NSBE, derive even greater benefits.

“All voting NSBE members are students,” Harris says. “With their NSBE involvement, they’re effectively living through an MBA curriculum because they establish priorities and determine budgets. They get a lot of leadership experience that is evident in a job interview.”

Harris outlines four critical benefits that NSBE offers its student members: “The leadership development component is No. 1; the ability to motivate students to pursue STEM is No. 2; networking with high-earning professionals is 3; and the social networking among engineers is 4. Let’s face it,” he adds, “female engineers find male engineers; they get along, and get married!”

Looking to the future, Harris says NSBE needs to navigate escalating workplace competition. Maintaining its mission to connect technical people with shared cultural interests will be key, he says.
On the same question of what NSBE should look like in decades to come, Cooper, now a commercial real estate consultant after a long career with the Bell System in Chicago, advocates a greater focus on entrepreneurship.

“For example — how to develop a product and apply for a patent,” Cooper says. “Fostering the entrepreneurial spirit. One part of NSBE could break off to be more of a consulting organization. NSBE would provide research and development for business consulting services to companies that already support NSBE. It would be a way to grow NSBE and give students more internship opportunities.”

As the students of NSBE mark this 40th anniversary milestone at Purdue and view a future that is full of possibility and promise, those involved with NSBE and MEP are acquiring the vision and commitment needed for meaningful positive action for another 40 years.

*Originally Posted July 15th, 2015*