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A Quarter Century Of Women And Minorities In Engineering At Northwestern University

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1996 Annual Conference


Washington, District of Columbia

Publication Date

June 23, 1996

Start Date

June 23, 1996

End Date

June 26, 1996



Page Count


Page Numbers

1.33.1 - 1.33.11



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Paper Authors

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William T. Brazelton

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session 2470

A Quarter Century of Women and Minorities in Engineering at Northwestern University

William T. Brazelton McCormick School of Engineering, Northwestern University

This presentation is not that of a planned research study, but rather is a review of over twenty-five years of experience with women and minority students in engineering at Northwestern University offered in an anecdotal mode. This is admittedly a focused view and not necessarily one representative of circumstances in other institutions, but it has provided an opportunity to observe some general behavior and expectations on the part of students.

Northwestern’s experiences have been many during this period. In the seventies, we were involved with Inroads, in which an on campus summer resident program was held for minority high school students with the intent of orienting them to math, science, and engineering. In June 1975, the Big Ten plus schools joined to establish CIC-MPME, Midwest Program for Minorities in Engineering, a consortium funded by the Sloan Foundation to develop a variety of approaches to bring more minorities into engineering. Later, from 1983 to 1988, there was activity with and membership on the board of the Chicago Area Pre-College Engineering Program (CAPCEP), a program to develop curricula and instruction in the Chicago Public Elementary Schools. However, our attention in this particular discussion is given to following the continuous effort from at least 1970 to the present to increase the numbers of women and minority students entering and graduating in engineering at Northwestern.

Background Beginning in 1959, the engineering school organized to centralize in the school instead of in the university for counseling, advising, record keeping, tutoring and other undergraduate support needs. Consequently, when the special needs of minority students received attention there was no thought of setting them aside in some separate approach, but rather to address them within the existing organization. This was thought to be appropriate in view of the presence of an experienced and successful staff in undergraduate engineering and also giving consideration to the size of the engineering school which was not large enough to establish many separate organizations for the same purpose.

Further, in the early development of the tutoring program in engineering an important lesson was learned. In an effort to bring the benefit of tutoring to bear at an early phase, we identified, on the basis of high school records and board scores, those students most likely to find advantage in the program and invited them to utilize the service. There was a backlash effect when this selectivity was realized and there was accusation by the invitees that they had been “identified for failure”. Clearly, the experience had not been helpful to the students’ personal pride and confidence. This episode was indelibly imprinted

1996 ASEE Annual Conference Proceedings

Brazelton, W. T. (1996, June), A Quarter Century Of Women And Minorities In Engineering At Northwestern University Paper presented at 1996 Annual Conference, Washington, District of Columbia. 10.18260/1-2--6258

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