Diversity summit summary
Assuring Michigan’s Knowledge-Based Workforce: A Summit on Diversity & Opportunity in K–16+ Engineering Education
October 13, 2009
Over the past decade, a series of reports ranging from the National Academy’s Rising Above the Gathering Storm to the National Governors Association Innovation American: Building a Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Agenda, have challenged the American public to critically examine how we educate our youth to be competitive and innovative workers in an increasingly global, diverse, and technical workplace.
At the College of Engineering, we are well aware of the current high unemployment rates in the state of Michigan and the exodus from the state of students who have earned a bachelor’s degree or higher. Despite having several state engineering colleges in a variety of settings, the number of students applying to engineering colleges has declined over the past two decades. Additionally, the University of Michigan has been unable to increase undergraduate and graduate representation of women and minorities. Furthermore, underrepresented minority students are not retained through graduation at rates similar to women and majority students; they have trouble closing the achievement gap that often exists at matriculation, and have more trouble securing entry-level jobs upon graduation due to lower GPAs. Finally, the pipeline of high school students academically and socially prepared to pursue an engineering degree is shrinking. Too many high school students, parents, and teachers do not understand what engineers do, or how to prepare for a college-level engineering educational program. This needs to change if Michigan is serious about moving to a greater knowledge-based economy.
To address the need for engineering talent in Michigan, the College of Engineering will hold a “landmark” event that launches a year-long dialogue of the statewide engineering educational community on preparing the next generation of engineers to work and engage in a global environment within the state of Michigan and elsewhere in the world. This event will bring together the broad engineering community (faculty, staff, students, industry, and K–12 partners) in order to reaffirm our commitment to diversity and multiculturalism, develop a leadership vision, and challenge all within our statewide engineering college community to work to bring this vision to life. It will also stimulate discussion about how the engineering colleges of the state might help implement a new framework for STEM and pre-engineering education, particularly in the underserved K–12 systems where the numbers of students who are prepared to succeed in 4-year engineering colleges are particularly low.
This daylong event will strive to cultivate public and academic discourse on our K–16 pipeline and the engineer of tomorrow. Our workforce is interconnected around the world, and yet the United States has fallen dreadfully behind preparing our citizens to work in the science and engineering fields. This statewide work needs to be done to sustain a successful long-term economic revival and to encourage more young people to consider engineering as a viable and relevant career pathway. We will host an event that appeals to faculty, staff, and students alike. Through involvement of those outside the University of Michigan, we will form a consortium of parties interested in coming together to explore an agenda for moving Michigan to a knowledge-based economy through an educational continuum.