New Orleans, Louisiana
June 26, 2016
June 26, 2016
August 28, 2016
Minorities in Engineering
An enduring vibrant partnership began in spring 1986 when the Commander and Technical Director of the nation’s largest civil and environmental engineering laboratory made a university recruiting visit where Hispanic enrollment exceeded 12 thousand. Annual collaboration and recruiting visits continued for 30 years. Two civil engineers were hired during the 1986 trip (a BS and a MS). Both remain in laboratory research positions. An annual seminar was provided for University Army ROTC cadets regarding missions of Army laboratories. In a spirit of partnership, laboratory leadership asked how they could assist the Department in addition to recruiting graduates. In 1991, the Civil Engineering Department Chair asked if the laboratory could accommodate two or three student summer interns. The Department was growing; it was experiencing challenges providing internships to undergraduates and research experiences to graduates during summer sessions. Graduate students were leaving without completing degrees. Laboratory leadership offered to accommodate 10 student interns in summer 1991. This began a research internship program that is arguably the best in the federal government.
Laboratory engineers are student mentors and research supervisors. They prepare two page research topics for 10 week internships. Research topics are transmitted to the university Program Manager (PM) who matches student’s interests and qualifications to research topics. Housing and transportation are arranged for students. Students are required to write a proposal, a technical paper and a technical poster on summer research. A non-technical written essay is required on values cultivated during the internship. They give an oral presentation before their peers, mentors and PM (professor for 3 credit-hour course). Questions from the PM and faculty members are intense and thorough. Usually 50-60 students, mentors, and engineers comprise the audience. Student research works are placed in the Program web library. Over 480 interns performed research since 1991.
The initial summer research internship evolved to an Education Partnership Agreement signed by both institutions. It expanded to host faculty and laboratory researchers’ participation in both places. Laboratory engineers participate as Adjunct Professors, members or Chairs of Graduate Student Committees and teach university short courses; professors perform joint research during summers, jointly compete for research contracts and an atmosphere of mutual respect and collaboration has become the partnership culture. The laboratory has hired over 60 university graduates since 1986 (30 years) and 38 remain today. One recruit is a Laboratory Director and Senior Executive Service (SES) member. About 30 earned MS degrees and two earned PhD degrees.
The prescription for partnership success is genuine, dedicated and continuous leadership commitment by both the university and the laboratory. A SES Laboratory Director leads annual university visits (the first for 13 years) and the same PM led the university partnership for over 25 years. The paper quantifies partnership metrics including internships, permanent hires, career advancements, joint research, and other endeavors.
Whalin, R. W., & Pagán-Trinidad, I., & Villanueva, E., & Pittman, D. W. (2016, June), A Quarter Century of Resounding Success for a University/Federal Laboratory Partnership Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.26419
ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2016 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015