The engineering department is introducing a new scholarship, called Engineering Practices with Impact Cohort (EPIC), for women interested in Elizabethtown College’s engineering program.
Beginning in the fall semester of 2014, the half million dollar grant will be enacted, translating into awards of up to $10,000 annually per student for four incoming Etown women. Individual award amounts are dependent on each student’s academic merit and demonstrated financial need.
“This is in addition to merit scholarships like the Provost and Presidential Scholarships,” Engineering and Physics Assistant Professor Dr. Sara Atwood said. She explained that the department strives to raise the percentage of women enrolled in its program; in general, engineering programs are known for having more male students enrolled than female students.
Since Etown is no exception in that respect, the new EPIC engineering scholarship demonstrates the department’s commitment to encouraging more females to enroll in the coming years.
“Right now, the department is about 10 to 15 percent female,” Atwood said. The hope is that this scholarship, which is funded by the National Science Foundation, will increase that percentage of women in the department to 30.
“The first group is applying now,” she said, noting that the applicants will also be evaluated through interviews. Atwood, who will mentor the group, also mentioned that EPIC scholarship recipients will have access to entirely-funded summer research opportunities with Etown faculty, as well as co-ops and internships with companies like Johnson & Johnson.
Along with having those advantages, students who receive the scholarship will be offered reserved rooms on the Partners in Engineering (PIE) floor, which is the Living and Learning Community for Etown engineering majors.
“Etown’s program has about the same percentage as the national average of women in engineering,” Atwood said.”Women are simply underrepresented as engineering students and professionals, and there are a lot of contributing factors including engineering culture, stereotypes, a lack of encouragement, how engineering has been presented to children and work-life balance issues,” Atwood said.
In speaking of the characteristics the department most values in its students, she further said, “All of our engineering students, including the women, are talented in their math and science ability. I think we’ve done a poor job as a field explaining that successful engineers also possess talents in communication skills, teamwork, leadership, organization, awareness of the big picture and the commitment to improve people’s lives. Those are talents that we look for in all of our Etown engineers and are skills that our program nurtures.”
According to Atwood, the new program will give female engineers firm support, enabling them to build their careers in the field. “The EPIC program in particular gives our female students additional mentoring and the support of a female cohort, which is especially important when they might be the only woman sitting in their engineering classroom,” Atwood said.
First-year engineering student Kimberly Kim gave some insight into why she chose Etown’s engineering program. “Etown is one of the very few schools that offers a sustainable design concentration. It was so specific, and I felt closer to what I wanted to do,” Kim said.
“It’s lonely but empowering,” she added, summing up her experience as a part of the female engineering minority. For Kim, the choice to enter the field was based on the opportunities to “change a community and a standard of living.” The EPIC scholarship fund will help young women begin their engineering paths, like Kim’s, at the start of the next semester.