Diversity in Engineering
KU Engineering is committed to increasing the number of diverse engineers, including women and underrepresented minorities, to address and create solutions for the complex, multicultural, multidisciplinary challenges that exist in today’s global society. The Office of Diversity Programs is also known as IHAWKe and oversees several student diversity groups and programs including KUEST and EPIC. Students in these organizations learn to use engineering and computing to change the world, connect with others and conquer their classes.
The IHAWKe Program was founded to address the needs of historically underrepresented students. IHAWKe (Indigenous, Hispanic, African-American, Women, KU Engineering) is an academic support program that seeks to recruit, retain and graduate innovative, team-oriented engineers who change the world, connect with others and conquer their classes. This is done through advising, peer mentoring, tutoring and various engaging engineering activities for our students.
IHAWKe students change the world through various outreach activities, such as the Tiny House Hurricane Disaster Relief Project. These tiny homes would provide safe, comfortable shelter to families affected by natural disasters. The homes could be shipped and then easily assembled on site.
KUEST (KU Engineering, Science & Technology) is a multi-level outreach program designed to provide underrepresented
minority and female students grades 6-12 with an introduction to engineering. KUEST partners with under-resourced local middle and high schools with significant minority and low-income student populations. The program offers project-based day camps, ACT prep and other college readiness workshops.
KUEST ONE is a full week residential engineering acclimation program with project-based learning, research and study skills training for graduated seniors entering KU. These students receive a one-year scholarship and personalized advising, tutoring and mentoring.
Students engage in half-day tours, IHAWKe student panels, engineering workshops, ACT prep and participate in mentoring programs.
KUEST Middle School
Students engage in engineering day camps at their respective schools.
Meet the Director
Andrew B. Williams, Ph.D., is the Associate Dean for Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion at the University of Kansas and the Charles E. and Mary Jane Spahr Professor in Electrical Engineering & Computer Science. Professor Williams directs the Humanoid Engineering & Intelligent Robotics (HEIR) Lab. He earned a Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering with an emphasis in AI from KU in 1999, an M.S. in Electrical & Computer Engineering from Marquette University in 1995 and a B.S. in Electrical Engineering from KU in 1988. Associate Dean Williams is the former Senior Engineering Diversity Manager at Apple Inc. under Steve Jobs. He authored the book, Out of the Box: Building Robots, Transforming Lives. He has also held faculty positions at Marquette University and Spelman College.
Last week at the National Society of Black Engineerings (NSBE) 2019 National Convention in Detroit, according to Karl Reid, NSBE Executive Director, there were over 15,000 participants.
What if students from underresourced schools with diverse populations saw themselves as technology creators and inventors? Last week we invited 24 sophomore students from Kansas City, Kansas Schlagle High School to participate in our KUEST 10 program for a hands-on experience in computer programming and design thinking for community needs. These students had participated in our KUEST 9 program last year with about 280 other high school students.
This past month, I was able to speak at the National Academy of Engineering’s Global Grand Challenge Scholars Program (GCSP) on how our IHAWKe Diversity & Women’s Programs are using hackathons, or IHAWKe-a-Thons, to innovate for Hurricane victims and also for helping workers with intellectual and developmental disabilities in the workplace.
“I want you to now design an app that will meet the community needs you identified.” When I shared that to the group of around 160 ninth graders from Kansas City Kansas Schlagle High School, I could see it in their eyes. “You want ME, to design this app?” The boys and girls began to straighten up in their chairs. The looks in their eyes had looks of expectation and curiosity. I wondered how many of them pictured themselves as creators of technology before I gave them the opportunity to do so in a low-fidelity app prototype design exercise.
Diversity inspires innovation. Our IHAWKe engineering students spent this weekend discovering the needs of workers with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) and created solution prototypes to meet the needs, thanks to the support of IBM Analytics in Leawood, Kansas. They spent time creating empathy maps and observations from workers at Cottonwood Industries, a place that employs persons with IDD.