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GM Foundation gift drives efforts to broaden interest in engineering

The General Motors Foundation has granted $115,000 to The Ohio State University College of Engineering to support attracting and retaining students from under-represented groups, especially women, to pursue engineering degrees and careers.

CAR ExCELS participants and leaders celebrate the first successful iteration of the seminar course that aims to increase the number of diverse Buckeye engineering students who excel in upper level engineering classes.The donation will support three of the college’s diversity programs, including the expansion of two weeklong summer programs for 11th and 12th grade high school students—STARS (Students Taking Advantage of Resources in STEM) and RISE (Respected Involved Skilled and Empowered).

“Our partnership with GM will enable us to expand our efforts to excite and inspire a broader range of students to consider engineering careers,” said Lisa Barclay, senior director of the college’s Office of Diversity, Outreach and Inclusion. “It will also help us ensure that current Buckeye engineering students are successful in reaching their educational goals.”

In partnership with Ohio State’s renowned Center for Automotive Research (CAR), STARS and RISE participants will visit nearby transportation facilities and learn about the range of engineering careers available in the automotive industry. Hands-on activities and labs will focus on vehicle cyber security, distracted driving impacts, and federal automotive standards and testing.

Students and their parents will also learn about preparing for college applications, as well as financial aid and scholarships.

“Thanks to the GM Foundation’s support, we’ve been able to expand the number of students who are part of the camps to 70 and turn them into residential programs,” said Barclay “That’s a huge opportunity for area high school students and enables us to attract students from outside of central Ohio.”

The gift will also fund CAR ExCELS (Experiential Career Exploration and Leadership Seminar), a new program that aims to increase the number of diverse Buckeye engineering students who excel in upper level engineering courses. Targeting 30 women and diverse students who show academic promise, ExCELS consists of a seven-week seminar course that gives students an in-depth look at engineering careers through hands-on laboratory experiences and interactive group discussions with practicing engineers and researchers. Students will be exposed to the industry terminology, tools and skills needed to succeed as first-time interns and gain more real-world context for future engineering coursework. The program will also introduce advanced engineering concepts to students early via hands-on projects in vehicle design, safety and testing, and fuel efficiency.

“Putting students at CAR gives them a chance to learn and problem-solve in a non-competitive environment and shows them how the math and the science they’re learning works in the real world,” Barclay said. “That’s important for building a student’s self confidence that ‘yes, I can do this.’”

As a long-time partner, the GM Foundation has supported Ohio State engineering students and outreach initiatives since 1979.