Conferences can be the key to graduate school

Staff reports
9/27/10

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. – The majority of students who participated in the National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering, Inc. Graduating Scholars Survey expressed an interest in entering a master’s in engineering program within the coming year or pursuing a doctoral degree. The survey results, released Sept. 20, also show that companies providing internships for underrepresented minority students stand to gain more than philanthropic kudos. This small investment builds loyalty among the developing talent pool.

Results from the survey indicate that graduating NACME scholars who are Latino, African-American or American Indian, are very likely to remain loyal to their internship companies. Nearly all of the students stated that not only will they likely begin working in a field that is closely related to their degrees, but that they are also likely to seek employment with a company based on their internship experience.

“We are often asked what the return on investment is for companies who support the NACME mission and strategy. The results from our studies demonstrate that our companies are helping to ensure U.S. competitiveness in STEM in a ‘flat’ world by recruiting, retaining and promoting outstanding underrepresented minority talent. Our companies understand that diversity drives innovation, and that its absence imperils our designs, our products, and, most of all, our creativity – all components of competitiveness,” said NACME President and Chief Executive Officer Irving Pressley McPhail.

Internships, however, are not the only factors influencing the next steps for these recent graduates; conference participation has proven critical to growing the next generation of engineering leaders and educators. The majority of NACME scholars participated in at least one form of undergraduate research (i.e.: attended a conference, presented a poster at a conference, presented a paper at a conference and/or co-authored a paper with a faculty member). According to survey results, all of the women who had presented a paper at a conference indicated a desire to eventually earn a doctoral degree in engineering. Presenting a paper at a conference also made a big impact upon men: 67 percent of those who had attended a conference said they planned to pursue a master’s degree within a year and 83 percent planned to eventually pursue doctoral study.

Despite the disheartening stories in the news lately concerning underrepresented minority men and women seeking a degree in STEM, the news from NACME’s GSS shows that change for the better is on its way, particularly with the commitment from its partner institutions.

NACME Vice President Aileen Walter highlights the importance of the relationship they have formed with academic partner institutions. Walter says these institutions, “demonstrate commitment and a track record of sustained and comprehensive approaches that facilitate achievement of the long-term goal of increasing the number of underrepresented students who earn baccalaureate degrees in engineering.”

NACME has supported more than 22,000 students with more than $114 million in scholarships and other support since its inception in 1974. We currently have more than 1,300 scholars who maintain a 3.3 GPA or better at 49 partner institutions across the United States. The Graduating Scholars Survey was distributed to the Minority Engineering Program coordinators at 29 NACME Partner Universities that participate in the Block Grant Scholarship Program. Approximately 68 percent of the students in the fall 2008 and spring 2009 classes completed and returned the survey. In addition to the data from the student’s surveys, data gathered by the Carnegie Foundation about the universities the students attended was also incorporated. Students were asked a variety of questions and asked to indicate information about internships – employer, satisfaction, etc.

“As the minority population grows in the United States, low college graduation rates become a threat to national prosperity,” Walter said. “Our goal at NACME is to encourage our partner schools to increase the graduation rates of underrepresented minority engineering students. … Each year, as NACME scholars graduate with bachelor’s degrees in engineering, they join the cadre of the nation’s engineers, adding their unique insights.”

You need to be logged in in order to post comments
Please use the log in option at the bottom of this page