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From Dean Williams: Engineering diversity

A recent Washington Post headline caught my eye: "Women falling behind in STEM bachelor’s degrees.” Citing a new report from the National Student Clearinghouse that finds the share of STEM bachelor’s degrees earned by women declined over the past decade, the reporter begins the article with “Well, this is a bit discouraging.” 

But instead of being discouraged by the statistics shared, I became even more proud of our efforts at The Ohio State University to steward brilliant young women in their pursuit of engineering degrees and careers. 

female studentsIn reverse of the 1 percent decline reported by the National Student Clearinghouse, the number of undergraduate engineering degrees earned by females at Ohio State has steadily increased. Last year, 232 women earned bachelor’s degrees, 80 percent more than in 2009-10 (129). Nearly 18 percent of undergrad engineering degrees are earned by women, up from 14.5 percent in 2009-10. Moreover, women are awarded 24 percent of our graduate degrees. 

How are Buckeyes bucking the trend? It’s not rocket science (at least not all the time). We are committed to K-12 outreach so that girls understand that their diversity, talent and contributions are critical to the future of engineering. We are ardent in supporting our female students through living/learning community resources. And we are adamant about making engineering fun and relevant through hands-on learning as often and as awesome as possible.

On the faculty side, women or underrepresented minorities make up approximately 30 percent of our new hires since 2012, and we have ambitious diversity goals in the immediate future.

Make no mistake, we still have much work to do. But I am encouraged by the attention STEM education and diversity is earning in our state and our country.

I also am enthused by two new additions to our senior staff, who both reflect and will contribute directly to our diversity efforts: Marsha Henfer and Donnie Perkins. 

Marsha Henfer is the college’s first chief information officer (CIO). She most recently served as CIO for the University of Wisconsin Stevens Point. I have asked Marsha to raise the bar for the college. As engineers, we should strive to be at the frontiers of information technology.

With more than 20 years of healthcare and higher education leadership and experience, Donnie Perkins is the college’s new chief diversity and inclusion officer. His charge is quite simple: create the best diversity and inclusion operation and raise our profile regionally and nationally. 

In a world that requires diverse and creative solutions, diversity of engineers is a necessity.

David B. Williams
Monte Ahuja Endowed Dean's Chair
Dean of the College of Engineering
Executive Dean of the Professional Colleges


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