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Purdue, UIndy tackle engineering education, barriers

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From science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) schools expected to break ground in Indianapolis, to abundant STEM camps and workshops for youth, it’s apparent these four fields of study, which have become increasingly popular within the past decade, continue to be top of mind. As the demand for workers in these fields continues to rise, Indiana colleges are preparing the next generation of engineers through special programs and field studies with an emphasis on minorities.

The University of Indianapolis (UIndy) will begin offering bachelor’s degrees in two specialties not widely available in central Indiana — industrial engineering and software engineering — in fall 2016.

The program will allow software engineering students to use hands-on learning to design, develop and evaluate large-scale software systems; industrial engineering students will dive into “complex systems involved in the processing and delivery of an endless range of products and services,” said the university.

“This program continues the momentum of the University of Indianapolis as we develop curricula aligned with industry and global needs,” Robert Manuel, university president, said in a news release. “We have a history of creating programs that connect the academy to the world around it, just as we established schools of education, nursing, adult learning, psychology, and physical and occupational therapy and built them into respected national models.”

The demand for software engineers is expected to grow by 30 percent from 2010 to 2020, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. In 2014, software developers earned a mean annual salary of $84,950 in Indiana and $106,050 nationally.

The private institution is known for its small class sizes, and Deborah Balogh, executive vice president and provost at UIndy, said this program will have the same benefit for students while maintaining a hands-on learning approach.

“There are two ways in which we are approaching hands-on learning, and that is through the design work and the project-based work students complete in teams throughout their program,” said Balogh. “When we bring in our new director, they will be tasked with finding internships and off-campus opportunities for companies where students can apply what they’ve learned in the classroom.”

The university doesn’t plan to cap enrollment but expects the program to attract lots of attention from current and prospective students.

“We expect a strong applicant pool and to fill classes,” Balogh told the Indianapolis Recorder.

Interested students have two pathways into the program and are encouraged to apply online. Students can be directly admitted by meeting the following requirements: high school GPA of at least 3.0, SAT scores of at least 550 in Math and 480 in Critical Reading or ACT scores of 24 in Math and 20 in English, Core 40 Diploma (if an Indiana high school graduate) and four years of math, including pre-calculus, plus chemistry. If students aren’t directly admitted, they can declare a pre-engineering major until requirements are met.

Martin Hall on the university’s campus will house the engineering program, while students will benefit from interacting and studying with their peers in a residence hall dedicated to engineering students.

While UIndy plans to equip its students with tools to thrive in the engineering field, another Indiana university’s effort examines how female engineering faculty persists despite barriers. The three-year study, “Why We Persist: An Intersectional Study to Characterize and Examine the Experiences of Women Tenure-Track Faculty in Engineering,” is a collaboration of three women from Purdue and Vanderbilt universities. 

Monica Cox, an associate professor in Purdue’s School of Engineering Education; Joyce Main, Purdue’s School of Engineering Education assistant professor; and Ebony McGee, assistant professor of diversity of Urban Schooling at Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College, will focus on the stories and experiences of women faculty in engineering to discover their inspirations, motivations, challenges and successes. The National Science Foundation supports the study with $1.4 million. 

Cox, who initially developed the idea for the study, began working for Purdue in 2005 and could relate to some of the issues women of color were facing as engineering faculty.

“I wanted to work with McGee and Main because of their expertise, and they are women of color who understand the challenges,” said Cox.

The team said in the past, although they worked as qualified engineers, they were mistaken for secretaries and janitors.

“By understanding women’s stories, we anticipate others can be motivated to learn about and try some of the strategies that may have worked for others,” said Main in a release.

Phase one of the study will include an institutional analysis using the American Society for Engineering Education database to get a count of women in engineering schools across the country and examine what types of other leadership and assistance programs are available in those areas, said McGee.

Phase two will include interviews of women of color faculty members to provide identifiable factors in their continuous pursuit of engineering.

Phase three will provide quantitative and qualitative data to paint a complete picture of women faculty in the field. The phase will inform policymakers and administrators on a national level about the trends, data and personal experiences collected.

The team hopes the study will not only give prospective women engineering faculty a peek into what it’s like working in the field, but also shape national education and institutional policies. 

For more information on University of Indianapolis’ engineering program, visit Uindy.com/engineering and to learn more about the three-year study, visit Purdue.edu



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