Engineering and Computing Talent Can Come from Anywhere: Insights from NSBE

April 03, 2019 - By Andrew B. Williams, Ph.D.

KUEST students group photo

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.

During the NSBE Dean’s Forum, Dr. Gregory Washington, Dean, UC-Irvine, noted that the overall numbers of high school graduation rates are projected to fall in various states. This will present a challenge for universities seeking to recruit high school students into their engineering and computing programs. More information on these statistics can be found in an article by Rick Seltzer in Inside Higher Ed. The good news is that the high school graduates will be more diverse. Another speaker at the NSBE Dean’s Forum, Dr. Scott Page, University of Michigan, author of the book the Diversity Bonus, argued effectively how and why diverse teams lead to better outcomes. One example came from a paper in Nature that showed that papers with four or five authors from multiple ethnicities have 5-10% more citations than the mean number of citations for a given publication.

KUEST student panel discussion

Our IHAWKe (Indigenous, Hispanic, African American, Women, KU engineering) program at the University of Kansas School of Engineering, is seeking to address this problem by exposing and engaging diverse and low income students from high schools that traditionally are not targeted for engineering recruitment. That’s why yesterday we invited seventy ninth graders from Washington High School in Kansas City, Kansas to visit KU Engineering, interact with our IHAWKe students, participate in design activities and learn about admissions as part of our KUEST program, sponsored by Halliburton and ExxonMobil. We are seeking to engage and recruit these middle school through high school through first year in college students by working with their teachers, parents/guardians, and administrators. After all, as Spike Lee was once quoted saying, talent can come from anywhere.

About the Author: Dr. Andrew B. Williams is the Associate Dean for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusive and Spahr Professor of Electrical Engineering & Computer Science at the University of Kansas. Dr. Williams began and now directs the IHAWKe (Indigenous, Hispanic, African American, Women, KU Engineering) program and building on the 40+ year old Diversity and Women’s program at KU Engineering that first gave him an introduction to engineering several years ago as a first generation, low income college student.

Copyright 2019 Andrew B. Williams, Ph.D.