Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

THE POWER OF PARTNERSHIPS: As Administrators at a Handful of Universities Have Discovered, Cooperative Dual-Degree Programs Offer a Winning Formula for Increasing the Production of Underrepresented Graduates

Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

THE POWER OF PARTNERSHIPS: As Administrators at a Handful of Universities Have Discovered, Cooperative Dual-Degree Programs Offer a Winning Formula for Increasing the Production of Underrepresented Graduates

Article excerpt

THE POWER OF PARTNERSHIPS: As administrators at a handful of universities have discovered, cooperative dual-degree programs offer a winning formula for increasing the production of underrepresented graduates

Dr. Calvin Mackie almost didn't become an engineer. Although he had a 3.9 grade point average when he graduated from New Orleans' John McDonough Senior High School, he only scored 900 on the SAT -- not nearly enough to be admitted to many of the nation's engineering schools.

When he attended a college fair at Georgia Institute of Technology, the recruiter wouldn't even give him an application but pointed him instead to another table -- the Atlanta University Center Dual-Degree program.

"I thank God that he sent me to that table," says Mackie, now an assistant professor of engineering at Tulane University. "I wouldn't have survived Georgia Tech if I had gone there first." Mackie not only survived but also earned his bachelor's of science in mathematics from Morehouse and earned additional bachelor's, master's, and doctorate degees in mechanical engineering from Georgia Tech.

But Mackie's success story is not the norm, educators say. Every year thousands of high school seniors are overlooked by engineering programs because they didn't go to the "right" school, take the right courses, or do well on a standardized test. According to the National Action Council on Minorities in Engineering (NACME), 50 percent of all minority engineering graduates come from only 10 percent of the nation's engineering institutions, many of them HBCUs like North Carolina A&T and Prairie View A&M universities. Many of the nation's engineering schools produce graduating classes with less than 5 percent minority representation annually.

At a time when companies are desperate for engineers, educators say partnerships like the Georgia Tech/Atlanta University Center Dual-Degree program may hold the key to significantly increasing the number of underrepresented engineers. The Florida A&M/Florida State universities' College of Engineering is another example experts point to for its ability to produce large numbers of minority engineers. (See Black Issues, March 18, 1998).

Georgia Tech's dual-degree program, which works in cooperation with the four historically Black colleges and universities that participate in the Atlanta University Center, has made Tech one of the top producers of minority engineering students in the country. Georgia Tech, a predominantly White university, ranks second behind North Carolina A&T, a historically Black University, in graduating African Americans with undergraduate degrees in engineering. But while Tech gets credit for graduating 140 Black engineers in 1998, 70 of those students came from participating AU Center institutions, according to DaLinda Brown Clark, director of the Atlanta University Center's dual-degree engineering program.

Morehouse, Spelman, Morris Brown, and Clark Atlanta University are the HBCUs that participate in the program. Both Georgia Tech and the Atlanta University schools have other colleges and universities that participate in their engineering programsas well.

The key to the program's success, says Brown Clark, is the cooperation between the institutions.

"If more institutions would set up these types of programs, we would be able to get more minority students in the engineering pipeline," she says. The program was created in 1969 to increase the number of minority students going into math, science, and engineering.

Educators say these programs are especially critical because the number of minority students enrolling in engineering programs is just now beginning to increase after a precipitous decline from 1992-97. In 1998, 14,635 minority freshmen enrolled in engineering programs nationwide, the largest number since 1993. But Dr. George Campbell, NACME president, says that number is still well below the peak year of 1992-93, when the total number of minority freshmen was 15,181. …

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