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City of Columbus grant focused on diversity and leadership

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A female PREFACE student works during a chemistry lab course
The City of Columbus grant will help enhance the PREFACE program’s hands-on, experiential learning component.

The City of Columbus Department of Public Service has pledged a $150,000 grant to The Ohio State University College of Engineering to support diversity and student success initiatives.

The investment will help establish the Columbus Transportation Leadership Endowed Fund—the city’s first endowment at Ohio State—which will provide one or more scholarships to undergraduate students majoring in civil or environmental engineering, with preference to those interested in pursuing a career in the public sector in central Ohio.

In an effort to support diversity and inclusivity in both the college and the engineering field, special consideration will be given to students who are members of organizations which aim to increase the participation of historically underrepresented populations in the profession, such as the Minority Engineering Program and EmpowHERment program. The $100,000 endowment will receive matching funds from the university through Ohio State’s Scarlet & Gray Advantage program, which will enable students to earn their bachelor’s degree debt-free.

“It is critical for the city to engage and empower future leaders in the engineering field, and it is an honor to support them,” said Columbus Department of Public Service Director Jennifer L. Gallagher. “This endowment will help Columbus develop an equitable, diverse and talented group of engineers ready to solve complex mobility transportation challenges as we grow to a region of 3 million residents by 2050.”

In addition to scholarship funding, $50,000 of the grant will support Ohio State’s Pre First-Year Academic and Career Engagement (PREFACE) program. Established in 1977, PREFACE engages incoming first-year students in a summer-enrichment and engineering-exposure experience that can change the trajectory of their college career.

PREFACE begins with a three-week summer program with classes in applied engineering mathematics, chemistry, engineering problem solving and physics, all aimed at showing students the pace and rigor of a college curriculum. Participants also enroll in autumn survey and spring seminar courses, both of which offer an in-depth exploration of engineering majors before students choose a path. A variety of learning strategies and professional development skills are taught as well.

The City of Columbus grant will help enhance the PREFACE program’s hands-on, experiential learning component. During the final week of the program, students will work in teams on projects that provide solutions to real-world issues—potentially challenges that city engineers are working to address. Not only will students gain valuable leadership, teamwork and problem-solving skills, the experience can also expose future engineers to career opportunities right here in Columbus.

“We want these students to thrive in engineering; not just survive,” said Ron Parker, assistant director of the Minority Engineering Program. “This generous grant from the City of Columbus will help ensure the PREFACE program will continue to help our engineering students persist and succeed in a demanding field.”

by Meggie Biss, College of Engineering Communications | biss.11@osu.edu