University of Kansas Aims to Increase Diversity in Its Engineering Programs

The University of Kansas has launched a new initiative to increase diversity in its engineering programs. The KUEST (KU Engineering, Science and Technology) program aims to expand and fill the pipeline of underrepresented engineers, including women and minorities, with an array of programs aimed at students as young as middle school.

Some elements of the KUEST program include:

  • Engaging middle school students with engineering day camps held at partner schools.
  • Encouraging high school students by bringing them to campus for tours of the School of Engineering, participating in creative engineering projects, ACT test prep, and training seniors to mentor younger students in the program.
  • Helping incoming students by offering a full-week “acclimation program” with learning, research and study skills training.
  • Creating a “living and learning community” for scholarship recipients, as well as access to project-based learning activities, peer mentoring and internship opportunities.

“We’re targeting, as much as possible, low-income, first-generation students,” said Andrew Williams, the Charles E. and Mary Jane Spahr Professor in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and associate dean for engineering diversity, equity and inclusion. “Those students don’t always have the background knowledge about the college experience. There’s a lot of untapped talent, if they can get over the barriers and obstacles to getting to KU.”

Dr. Williams stated that there will be pilot projects this fall with Schlagle and Washington high schools in Kansas City, Kansas. There will also be some on-campus pilot programs starting during the 2018-19 school year. Professor Williams is seeking funding from private companies, government agencies and more to help bring the entire program to fruition.

Dr. Williams is a graduate of the University of Kansas, where he majored in electrical engineering. He holds a master’s degree from Marquette University in Milwaukee and a Ph.D. in electrical engineering with an emphasis in artificial intelligence from the University of Kansas.

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