Discover U - funding story 2005

Jul 15, 2005

Kettering University and the Genesee Intermediate School District (GISD) have partnered to create "Discover U," a new career-oriented series of hands-on workshops in science, math, engineering and technology for girls in grades 10 through 12.

The program was funded by a $20,000 grant from the Engineering Information Foundation (EIF) of New York, and A $4,200 grant from the Merkley Youth Charitable Trust at Citizens Bank in Flint.

Discover U will introduce more than 300 girls to academic and career opportunities through a series of eight day-long events held at the university over the course of the academic year. Each program day will focus on a specific area of engineering, applied science or applied mathematics, with an emphasis on subjects with particular appeal to young women such as Bio-Engineering, Environmental Chemistry, Applied Physics, Occupant Kinematics and Fuel Cells.

Participants will be introduced to each subject with hands-on experiments and laboratory activities supervised by Kettering faculty and undergraduate mentors. They will also attend sessions on how to prepare for college.

Each program day can accommodate 40 participants, who may attend more than one or all of the eight scheduled programs that will begin in September 2005. At the end of the academic year a session on college and career planning will be available to participants and their parents.

Staff from the GISD Career Technical Education, Communications and Development departments will work with Betsy Homsher, associate dean of Students and director of Women Student Affairs at Kettering, to develop, recruit and coordinate the project designed to increase awareness among young women about the opportunities in Science, Math, Engineering and Technology fields and increase the number of women who matriculate to colleges and universities in these majors.

"Kettering remains committed to increasing the number of young women who pursue Science, Math, Engineering and Technology (SMET) degrees," said Homsher. "We know that career paths are rarely set instone byjunior high or even high school, but for many girls that age, opportunities dwindle rapidly as they drop out of advanced math and science classes."

The American Association of University Women (AAUW) states in "Gender Gaps: Where Schools Still Fail Our Children," that fewer girls than boys take advanced math and science courses in high school and that those gaps persist throughout college and beyond. In fact, though the percentage of female students majoring in engineering has increased steadily over the past several years, there is still a sizeable gap between women's and men's participation in engineering-related fields of study.

According to a report issued by Michigan Lt. Governor John Cherry's Office on higher education and economic growth, the problem of women's under-representation in technological and engineering fields is attributable to several factors including self-confidence, parental support, teacher encouragement, exposure to role models, and mentorship. In addition, because they often do not understand the available career path options, young women do not seek out the appropriate coursework in high school and are under-prepared for success in engineering and technology classes at the college level.

"At Kettering University, our pre-college programs for women focus on techniques we feel are proven to increase the number of female students we recruit and retain," Homsher said. "These techniques are mentorship, hands-on laboratory experience, portraying an expectation of success, and the introduction of successful professionals to serve as role models and create awareness about SMET careers."

"Discover U allows us to overcome the most basic reasons why young women do not pursue SMET degrees: they don't know the opportunities exist, they don't know anyone pursuing them, and they don't know the proper steps of preparation for an engineering or technology major," she said.

"By introducing them to information about the wide variety of career choices available in these disciplines, to professional women in these fields, to current undergraduate students who express enthusiasm about their choices, personal interactions, hands-on laboratory experiences and exposure to "real" college life," Homsher said, "the program will give these young women confidence in choosing an education and a career in a technical field."

The Genesee Intermediate School District is the fifth largest regional service agency in Michigan, serving more than 84,000 K-12 students in 21 school districts and 10 charter schools.

Kettering University, formerly called General Motors Institute is one of the country's premier co-op institutions, providing 2,500 students with career-based education in engineering, applied sciences, mathematics, and business management. Founded in 1919, the University also offers graduate programs in engineering and manufacturing management.

Written by Dawn Hibbard