Colleges and corporations are leading a growing national effort to encourage young people, especially girls and young women, to pursue careers in fields of engineering and technology. Locally, that encouragement took the form of scholarships from Harris Corp., RF Communications Division, to three academic organizations.
The company donated $100,000 each to Rochester Institute of Technology, Monroe Community College and Rochester Area Colleges Center for Excellence in Math and Science at the opening of its Women in Technology Conference on April 19. The awards will be used to fund scholarships for girls and young women, as well as fund teacher training in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, the STEM disciplines.
The contribution to RIT will create an endowment to provide annual scholarships for economically disadvantaged girls to attend “Everyday Engineering Summer Camp” through the Women in Engineering program, WE@RIT, in the Kate Gleason College of Engineering at RIT.
“We have had a long relationship with RIT,” says Dana Mehnert, group president, Harris RF Communications. “We have nearly 400 alumni from the college working at Harris Corp. It is significant that this award is going to the only college in the United States named for a woman, Kate Gleason.”
WE@RIT is a multi-faceted program to support women currently enrolled in engineering programs at RIT and to encourage girls in grades 4-12 to consider engineering as a career option through programs like the Everyday Engineering Summer Camp, a week-long, non-residential camp at the college. Each year, more than 2,000 young women have attended some facet of the nearly 20 different pre-engineering programs WE@RIT offers.
“Through this scholarship endowment, we hope to increase that number,” Mehnert adds.
“The Kate Gleason College is extremely fortunate to have such a strong partner as Harris RF to help support its on going efforts to enhance gender diversity in the engineering professions,” says Harvey Palmer, dean of the college. “WE@RIT’s family of hands-on, summer experiences have proven to be very effective at conveying the creativity and innovation embedded in the engineering profession. This latest gift from Harris RF will assure that financial hardship will no longer be an impediment for young women to access these programs.”
The summer camp, along with inter-collegiate efforts such as the 2+2 program between RIT and Monroe Community College strengthens the pipeline of young women entering STEM programs, says Jacquie Mozrall, department head of RIT’s industrial and systems engineering program. “What this endowment does for us is expand the program and open it up to a wider-ranging, diverse group of young women,” she says.
MCC will use the funds for two scholarships each year for women enrolled in technical fields of study, starting in the fall, says Janet Glocker, MCC vice president of academic services. The scholarships would supports students’ coursework that could lead to bachelor’s degrees through the 2+2 program or to mechanical technology and optics careers at organizations like Harris Corp., she adds.
The remaining $100,000 donation will go toward the Harris Corp. Rochester STEM Teaching Institute, which will provide high-quality professional development for 150 STEM educators.
“We have a vibrant engineering workforce. Over our history, we’ve benefitted greatly from the exceptional contributions of women in technology,” says Mehnert. “We’re excited now to provide opportunity for future generations to join this exciting field and work on the technologies our country needs to stay competitive in the global marketplace.”
More information about WE@RIT can be found at we.rit.edu
About Harris Corp.:
Harris is an international communications and information technology company serving government and commercial markets in more than 150 countries. Harris RF Communications is the leading global supplier of secure radio communications and embedded high-grade encryption solutions for military, government and commercial organizations. Additional information about Harris Corp. is available at www.harris.com.