Engage ME, which stands for Engage Multicultural Engineers, is a relatively new initiative within the Lee College of Engineering; the effort brings together students, faculty, professionals and alumni of all races, cultures and genders.
“Engage ME is a student-focused effort,” said Sherman Mumford, freshman lecturer and advisor and associate director of Engage ME. “It is designed to help students recognize that college involves both social life and academic life, and that they lead toward professional life. We’re trying to help them succeed in all three aspects.”
For the 2018-19 academic year, Engage ME will use a $5,000 grant from the Chancellor’s Diversity Challenge Fund to expand its outreach events. Other goals include increasing the number of scholarships and teaching and research assistantship positions for underrepresented minorities to enable them to better focus on their studies instead of having to work off campus. Program leaders aim to increase Lee College alumni involvement, too.
Mumford noted, “Engage ME is important at the recruitment level because students and parents want to know there is a program in place to support minority students. At recruiting events, it has made a huge difference to be able to say ‘Yes, we do have a program.’”
Recruitment efforts have led to the “I am an Engineer” marketing campaign, which includes posters, postcards and social media posts featuring photos of male and female engineering and technology students of all colors.
“We want to show that engineers, engineering technologists and construction managers are multicultural and come from a wide range of backgrounds" Mumford said. “It is important for our young people, especially women and students of color, to envision themselves in engineering and other STEM professions. We want potential students to look at the posters and say to themselves, ‘Hey, they look like me. I can do that too.’”
Currently, the Lee College of Engineering undergraduate class is made up of 14 percent female, six percent African American and nine percent Hispanic students.
During the 2017-18 year, Engage ME held events with the University Career Center, the Center for Academic Excellence, during the Week of Welcome and during campus diversity conferences. The program helped minorities make connections with existing student support programs and with student societies such as the National Society of Black Engineers, the Society of Women Engineers and the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers.
Engage ME also has participation from professionals outside of the college, in the form of its advisory board; representatives are from Duke Energy, Bank of America, Corning, Sealed Air, Wells Fargo, NAVAIR and the city of Charlotte.
“The companies want to hire minority engineers, so they want them to succeed in college, and they want to help them do that,” said Chris McDaniel, freshman lecturer and advisor and director for Engage ME. “They are helping us focus on the professional side. At formal and informal events, they are helping the students interact with professionals, so they can learn from their experiences. And they have been very direct with the students, telling them they have will have to build professional respect during their careers. They will have to show they are good engineers, and they will have to be part of the change.”
He added, “We made a good start in the first year. A lot of students don’t realize that balancing social life and professional life can help them on an academic level. But they do need all three to do their best in college. These elements can be very different for underrepresented minorities, so we’re trying to make sure they get all the support they can.”