At the flagship campus of the University of Florida in Gainesville, African Americans make up just 6 percent of the 35,000-member undergraduate student body, according to the latest data supplied to the U.S. Department of Education. African Americans make up more than 16 percent of the Florida population. Thus, Black representation in student enrollments at the state’s flagship public university is less than half of what parity would call for if enrollments reflected the state’s population.
However, the University of Florida has made great strides in one area of diversity. It now has more Black women tenure or tenure-track faculty members in engineering than any college or university in the country. According to the American Society for Engineering Education, a nonprofit dedicated to engineering education, the seven Black women faculty members in engineering are the most among the 338 four-year degree-granting engineering schools in the United States. Morgan State University in Baltimore had six women faculty in engineering and Howard University in Washington, D.C., had five.
Lakiesha Williams, a biomedical engineering associate professor, said the university’s Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering is welcoming, and the university works toward making its staff as diverse as Florida’s population. “Representation is critical, and it’s important for students to see people who look like themselves in the classroom and outside of the classroom,” Dr. Williams said.
Dr. Williams is a graduate of Louisiana State University, where she majored in biological engineering. She holds a Ph.D. in biomedical engineering from Mississipi State University.