Smith College Graduates Country’s First All-Female Class of Engineers
Amid increasing calls to bolster the nation’s scientific literacy and enhance its high-tech work force, a pioneering and much watched engineering program has just produced its first graduates.
Despite the program’s short history, the newly minted engineers — all women — are weighing significant career and fellowship offers.
Established in 1999, Smith College’s Picker Engineering Program is the first and only engineering program at a U.S. women’s college (see Black Issues, Sept. 14, 2000). At graduation ceremonies last month, Smith made history when it awarded the first engineering bachelor’s degrees ever offered at any of the nation’s women’s colleges. Spelman College, a historically Black women’s college in Atlanta, offers a dual engineering degree with participating engineering schools.
“We are enormously proud of these young women and the path they have blazed for those who will follow them,” said Smith President Dr. Carol T. Christ. “Technology and engineering are critically important to our society’s development, and I am thrilled to know that Smith engineers will be shaping that future.”
The 20 graduating seniors, who come from 13 states and two foreign countries, have spent their four years at Smith immersed in a program that is noted for its quantitative rigor and distinguished by the importance placed on study of the humanities and social sciences. Dr. Domenico Grasso, director of the Picker Engineering Program, characterizes it as a “vibrant intellectual crossroads of the sciences and humanities.”
With a focus on developing “broadly educated, well-rounded engineers,” Grasso says, Smith is poised to launch these graduates into leadership roles in corporations, nonprofits and other technology-related fields.
To date, the graduating students have been accepted into engineering graduate programs at Harvard-MIT, Michigan, Dartmouth, Cornell, Princeton, Berkeley and Notre Dame. Two have received highly competitive National Science Foundation fellowships for postgraduate study in engineering at any U.S. university. Several have positions waiting for them at national firms in fields ranging from information systems to finance to construction management.
Corporations, eager for innovative ideas and a diverse employment base, have been quick to demonstrate their support for the Smith program.
“The Smith approach to engineering is precisely what the world needs today,” said Hewlett-Packard Chairman and CEO Carly Fiorina. “There is no college that connects head to heart — no college that teaches that science and technology must be fused with a social conscience — better than Smith College.”
Bill Ford, chairman and CEO of Ford Motor Company, predicted that “many opportunities for firsts and leadership roles” await the students in their chosen fields.
In endorsement of the academic rigor of the program, five leading engineering programs have entered into direct enrollment agreements with Smith, enabling any Smith engineering student with a grade point average of 3.5 or above to automatically gain admission to selected engineering graduate programs at Dartmouth College, the University of Michigan, Notre Dame, Johns Hopkins or Tufts universities.
For more information about the Picker Engineering Program visit the Web site <www.science.smith.edu/departments/Engin/>.
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