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University joins diversity pledge recognized by President Obama

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Texas State was one of more than 120 institutions that pledged their support to a diversity initiative presented Aug. 4 at the White House Demo Day in Washington, D.C.

The initiative was presented in the form of a one-page pledge signed by deans of the participating schools. Under the pledge, institutions of higher education must commit to at least one K-12 or community college program aimed at increasing the diversity of the engineering student body.

President Barack Obama announced the initiative to an audience that included CEOs of major companies like Intel and startup businesses owners for bringing a change to the way things are done in the United States.

The universities who committed to the pledge are part of the American Society for Engineering Education’s (ASEE) Engineering Deans Council (EDC). University of Texas, Texas A&M University and other schools across the country participated.

Texas State committed to a nationwide effort to attract and retain a diverse student body, building the pipeline for the next generation of American engineers and entrepreneurs, an Aug. 5 press release from the university stated.

Holder said the K-12 program will help universities reach out to younger children to encourage and support them from an early age.

“Every one of my classes is almost guaranteed to have one person, if not many, from every race,” said Dean Wright, aerospace engineering sophomore at the University of Texas. “(But) the male-female ratio in engineering majors is usually very skewed.”

Another condition of the pledge is committing to implement strategies that will increase the representation of women in the Ingram School of Engineering.

Wright said it is not uncommon to only have a few women in a large class. Often Wright will not have a single woman in his group projects, even though the groups have around 20 people, he said.

Nationally, 18.4 percent of students who obtained bachelor degrees in engineering in 2011 were women. Four percent of those women were African American and 8.5 percent were Hispanic, according to a 2015 report by the ASEE.

This year, 35.6 percent of engineering students at Texas State have been female, according to a report released by the Office of Institutional Research this year.

“I think Texas State University is very progressive,” said Robert Habingreither, associate dean of science and engineering . “I think there are a lot of women and minorities in our program compared to others.”

Habingreither said the decision to sign the pledge was mutual among the staff in the college of science and engineering. Stan McClellan, director of Ingram School of Engineering, signed the pledge in representation of the university.

“We did it because it supports what is already written in the university’s master plan,” Habingreither said.

Habingreither said funding for more scholarships is essential to attracting a more diverse student body.

“The market is highly competitive for these students, and bigger universities such as UT and A&M are able to offer students larger scholarships,” Habingreither said.

The success of the program will be measured by monitoring the increased in diversity enrollment, retention and graduation rates, according to the Aug. 5 press release.

Gerald Holder, chair holder with the EDC, said it is hard to hire a diverse faculty because there have traditionally been few minorities and women in the engineering field. The key to creating a more diverse student body is creating a pipeline for future engineers.

Holder said he has seen the most growth among female engineers in the last 10 years. Holder, the dean for the University of Pittsburg’s engineering program, said his university has had the highest population of female engineers for the past three years. He said women have made up about 40 percent of the engineering students.

In 2011, under four percent of doctoral degrees obtained were earned by African American students nationally and 22 percent were awarded to women, according to “Engineering by the Numbers” produced by the ASEE this year.

“There is a long way to go before the percentages of these populations represent those of the nation,” Holder said.

Follow Darcy Sprague on Twitter at @darcy_days.