Hajim School recognized for efforts to increase diversity

July 17, 2019

Thomas Howard, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering, is among Hajim School faculty members who have mentored Rochester City School District students as part of the Upward Bound program.

When Talia English ’21 attended the National Society of Black Engineers annual convention earlier this year, “It helped to reassure me that there are many successful and worthwhile opportunities that await me and that taking all of these challenging courses is worth it …” she says.

English, an engineering sciences major at the University of Rochester’s Hajim School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, was among 50 underrepresented minority students who were able to attend career and networking seminars at the convention and, in many cases, receive interviews for internships and jobs, thanks to travel support from the school.

This is one of many ways in which the Hajim School seeks to increase the diversity of its student enrollment and retain women, first-generation and/or underrepresented minority students in engineering. Combined with initiatives to hire more women and underrepresented minority faculty, the efforts have earned the school recognition from the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE).

The school is among the first cohort to receive Bronze Award recognition as part of the society’s Diversity Recognition Program, indicating that it is “among the nation’s leaders in inclusive excellence,” says Gregory Washington, chair of the ASEE Engineering Deans Council, and dean of engineering at the University of California, Irvine.

”It is important to ensure that engineering and the applied sciences are fields that are accessible to all,” says Wendi Heinzelman, dean of the Hajim School “We need a diverse community with different backgrounds and different ways of looking at problems to enable us to advance solutions to the most challenging problems we face as a society. I am thrilled that the Hajim School has been recognized for the work that we have done and will continue to do to attract and retain the best and brightest students and faculty.”

The Hajim School was recognized for multiple initiatives, including:

  • Encouraging faculty and graduate students to teach classes, provide research experiences, and develop workshops and other programming for low-income, minority Rochester City high school students participating in the Upward Bound program administered by the University’s David T. Kearns Center. A high percentage of these students go on to college. Seven Hajim School faculty members are participating this summer; the goal is to involve at least 25 engineering faculty and 25 graduate students in mentoring 100 or more high school students annually.
  • An Engineering Essentials course offered each summer to incoming first-year students through the Early Connections Program of the Office of Minority Student Affairs. The four-week course gives students a deeper understanding of early concepts in engineering and helps them determine the engineering field best suited to their goals and interests.
  • A suite of first year “on ramp” courses emphasizing career options in engineering and hands-on design projects for students without extensive math and science backgrounds. The courses are designed to entice students who might otherwise think they’re “not good enough” to be engineers.
  • The STEM-Gems program, which has improved the retention of first-year underrepresented minority and/or first-generation engineering students through advising, tutoring, and academic monitoring. The program also provides peer support in collaboration with the National Society of Black Engineers, Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, and Women in Computing student chapters.
  • Increasing the percentage of women and underrepresented minority tenure-track faculty members—13 percent and five percent respectively as of fall 2018. The school is taking a more proactive approach of reaching out to potential candidates, rather than simply posting openings and waiting to see who applies. It is also pursuing target-of-opportunity hires in addition to filling normal openings. Three of the four new Hajim School faculty members this fall are women.

The University of Rochester also continues to take significant steps to strengthen policies and practices, to expand resources, and to clearly state a shared commitment to equity, diversity, and inclusion. Read more on our culture of respect web page.

The ASEE Diversity Recognition Program was launched in 2018 as a follow up to the ASEE Deans Diversity Pledge, which has now been signed by over 220 of ASEE’s 330-member engineering colleges. The pledge was issued in response to industry calls for a more diverse mix of engineering professionals who can work effectively in a diverse, multicultural, and global environment.

Engineering schools can also achieve Silver and Gold Awards for further improvements in diversity, but only Bronze Awards were presented in this, the first round of submissions.