H I S T O R Y
The Office of Women and Minorities in Engineering (WME) has been launched by Oregon State University to encourage and inspire more women and minority students to pursue careers in engineering, and to help retain these students in engineering once they enroll at the university.
"Only eight percent of the engineering workforce nationwide is made up of women", says Ellen Momson, a veteran high school physics teacher the college recently hired to direct the new Women and Minorities Program. "Historically, young women have not been encouraged to pursue careers in engineering, yet engineering can be extremely fulfilling and rewarding. We're very committed to bringing more woman and minorities to OSU to become tomorrow's engineers."
"That's why we're revitalizing the freshman and sophomore curriculum, making it more hands-on and inspiring," says Momsen, who last year was one of only six physics teachers in the nation selected to participate in year-long residencies at six universities, including Oregon State. "We need to change the teaching methods so that the earliest courses are very engaging and exciting."
Fully funded by industry and alumni sponsors, the new program has also established a mentoring program so that first-year students have an immediate peer support system provided by older students.
"We're connecting new students with students who know the ropes and will mentor them during that critical first year," Momsen says.
Only 18 percent enrolled at US engineering schools are women, but Momsen hopes to raise that number at Oregon State by letting potential students know that job prospects for engineers are excellent, especially for woman and minorities, and by exposing students to good role models, including industry leaders.
"Young women and minorities have very few role models in the field of engineering," Momsen says. "We want to connect them at an early age with people they can relate to who have become successful engineers, to illustrate in a very real way what's possible in an engineering career."
Providing outreach to K-12 students, as well as math and science teachers is the goal of the Women and Minorities in Engineering program.