AUSTIN, TX — A program at The University of Texas at Austin's Cockrell School of Engineering has been recognized by ExxonMobil Corporation and the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) for its efforts to increase the school's diversity and to retain underrepresented minority students in four-year engineering degree programs.
The Equal Opportunity in Engineering (EOE) Program was selected for the inaugural ExxonMobil–NSBE Engineering Impact Award, a competitive $10,000 grant that will be awarded annually to one program nationwide.
"The goal of this award is to find a successful program that's easy to replicate at any university," said Franklin Moore, director of programs for NSBE. "From the African American perspective, we only have a 30 percent retention rate nationally [for students finishing four-year engineering degrees] and that's horrible. Programs like EOE at The University of Texas at Austin are so important because they help us keep our underrepresented engineering students in engineering, and the ones who like it will succeed."
More than 17 programs were considered for the award, Moore said. To be selected, programs had to demonstrate they had a sustainable retention program for underrepresented minorities as well as proven results, he said.
Thanks to EOE outreach, recruitment and retention initiatives, namely the program's five First-year Interest Groups (FIGs), The University of Texas at Austin ranks fourth in the nation in producing undergraduate engineering degrees for minority groups.
"We are proud of this ranking and continuously seek opportunities to improve it," said Cockrell School of Engineering Dean Gregory L. Fenves. "EOE initiatives have substantially increased the diversity of our students since the program began 41 years ago. Today, it's still working to ensure that every student –- regardless of his or her race, gender or background –- has an equal opportunity for success in the Cockrell School."
EOE was established by the Cockrell School in 1970 to promote the recruitment and academic development of African American, Hispanic and Native American students interested in engineering. The program has since expanded its mission to support students historically underrepresented in engineering as well as students who have backgrounds or experiences that will contribute to the diversity of the Cockrell School of Engineering. The EOE Program guides pre-college and college students on their academic journey and promotes excellence in the areas of academics, leadership, professionalism and community support.
EOE FIGs are offered throughout the fall and spring semester and generally consist of 20-25 students each, all of whom are enveloped in a web of community support that includes mentoring, tutoring, and networking with engineering peers, upper division students, faculty and professional engineers.
Since fall 2003, when EOE implemented its current outreach and retention plan, 75 percent of underrepresented students who enrolled in EOE FIGs have either graduated or are still enrolled in the Cockrell School. The average one-year retention rate for students in EOE FIGs is 92 percent, with two-year retention rates being 78 percent.
"We're focused on the needs of our underrepresented students and we're committed to working hard to address those needs with focused, comprehensive efforts that show results," said EOE Director Andrea Ogilvie.
NSBE will present a ceremonial check to EOE representatives during the 37th NSBE Annual Convention Opening Session in St. Louis on March 23.
In addition, a ceremony and reception will be held at Carnegie Institute of Science in Washington, D.C. on April 13.