KU School of Engineering launches scholarship initiative aimed at underrepresented students

photo by: Nick Krug

Students work within a computer lab at the School of Engineering on the campus of the University of Kansas, Friday, Oct. 20, 2017.

The University of Kansas School of Engineering has introduced a new initiative that aims to increase the number of underrepresented students, such as women and people of color, in its ranks.

The program is dubbed KUEST — the acronym stands for KU Engineering, Science and Technology – and falls under IHAWKE, the School of Engineering’s umbrella organization for diversity and women’s programs, according to a KU news release.

With KUEST, School of Engineering leaders aim to recruit students who have potential but not necessarily the resources, support or even knowledge of the opportunities available to them. The new initiative will target students as young as middle school, with an emphasis on low-income, potentially first-generation college students.

photo by: Nick Krug

Andrew Williams, associate dean for diversity, equity and inclusion at the University of Kansas.

Proposed components of KUEST include: engineering day camps for middle schoolers; engaging high school students in School of Engineering tours, creative engineering projects, ACT test prep and mentorship of the program’s younger students; offering a full-week “acclimation program” to help incoming students with learning, research and study skills training; and the creation of a “living and learning community” for scholarship recipients, as well as access to project-based learning activities, peer mentoring and internship opportunities.

A 2017 study by National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics found that African-Americans, Hispanics and people with disabilities are still vastly underrepresented in science and engineering jobs. White men, however, remain overrepresented: despite comprising just a third of the U.S. population, white men hold around half of the country’s science and engineering jobs.

The new KUEST program aims to address these issues, and it has already gotten started. In April, KU hosted 300 students from Schlagle High School in Kansas City, Kan., for a day of engineering presentations and robot demonstrations.

Andrew Williams, KU’s associate dean for engineering diversity, equity and inclusion, said in the news release that IHAWKE will launch pilot projects this fall with Schlagle and Washington high schools in Kansas City, Kan. There are also plans for on-campus pilot programs during the 2018-2019 school year, while Williams seeks funding from private companies, government agencies and other organizations to get the entire program up and running.

According to the release, published Tuesday, Williams is already soliciting support from companies such as ExxonMobil and IBM.

For more information on the overarching IHAWKE program, visit ihawke.ku.edu.


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