Rowan University has received a $1.9 million federal grant from the National Science Foundation to expand engineering opportunities to a more diverse population.
The grant, the largest grant ever awarded to a Rowan professor by the foundation, is went to Beena Sukumaran, who will lead a team conducting research to improve diversity in engineering at the university.
"We have to recognize that when we bring together a diverse group of students, we enhance every student's academic experience and better prepare our future engineers," Sukumaran said.
"Rethinking Engineering Diversity, Transforming Engineering Diversity" is the official name of the five-year program to draw more women and underrepresented populations to the engineering department at Rowan.
"This is important for our nation's future and global competitiveness," Sukumaran said. "If we do not have students from various backgrounds and cultures, we cannot effectively compete in a global marketplace."
The efforts will include elements such as changing admission standards by considering rigor of courses taken in high school, high school grades, volunteer activities and personal background and experiences rather than relying heavily on SAT/ACT scores; enhancing the perception and understanding of diversity and equality among students, faculty and administrators to develop inclusiveness; working with Rowan's existing programs to identify and assist students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds get into college and graduate on time; and transform the existing second- and third-year engineering curriculum to a more inclusive approach.
"Diversity is a challenge every college of engineering deals with," said Ali Houshmand, president of Rowan University. "But we have some forward-thinking engineering professors, and we've been working to address this imbalance. Dr. Sukumaran's grant will enable us to break new ground."
In order to help other institutions implement the program, the Rowan team will host webinars and conference workshops on transforming engineering education and consult with other institutions interested in implementing its model.
"Nothing should get in the way of a student's dream just because opportunity may be out of reach," said U.S. Rep. Donald Norcross in a press release. "The field of engineering, like all job fields, should be representative of America. Rowan University's engineering program will not only mirror the population of the United States, but serve as a model for other colleges and universities. They should be proud of this pioneering achievement."