August 29, 2008

This summer, through the Office for Diversity’s REHAMS (Recruitment into Engineering of High-Ability Multicultural Students) and X-CITE (Exploration Camp Inspiring Tomorrow’s Engineers) programs, staff recruited academically talented female and minority high school students to attend two week-long, non-residential engineering camps on LSU’s campus. REHAMS, sponsored by Shell Oil, and XCITE, sponsored by Fluor Corporation, ran a full day of activities for potential engineering students. Campers were introduced to the various fields of engineering, engaged in creative problem solving activities using basic methods of engineering design, and encouraged to develop individual interests and talents.

From 7:30am to 5pm each day, the campers attended classes, participated in experiments, worked on individual and team/group projects, and heard informative, motivational talks by guest speakers. Activities included an industry field trip to the Shell Oil Company refineries in Convent and Geismar, a “Rebuilding the City” New Orleans Tour hosted by the Army Corps of Engineers, and an Engineering Technical Communication Seminar held in CoE’s Engineering Communications Studio in Patrick F. Taylor Hall.

Organizing an engineering summer camp, and getting high school students engaged during summer vacation isn’t easy, but comments from REHAMS participants—who typically then apply to CoE after high school—confirm that the camps are making a difference. Fourteen year-old Delicia Landry, a freshman attending White Castle High School in White Castle, LA, was enthusiastic about her camp experience. “Before I came to REHAMS I was not sure that I wanted to be an engineer, as most of my family is in the medical field,” said Delicia. “The camp definitely helped me decide to pursue engineering, especially biological engineering.” Jessica Bell, XCITE participant, added “Before this camp, I thought I wanted to be a Chemical Engineer, but the presentation and activities by the Biological Engineering Professor and students helped me to realize that Biological Engineering is the field for me. I am glad I found out early!”

Parents of participating students were equally impressed with the programs’ impact on their children. Sarah Bell, mother of an XCITE participant, said, “Jessica came home every day talking about all the things she learned each day. I thank you [LSU] for offering her the opportunity to learn more about engineering and getting her more focused on her academic career. She is also planning on keeping in touch with some of the peer mentors; they had such a huge positive influence on her.”

Chris Thomas, father of another REHAMS camper, Chris Jr., credits the program with helping set a course for his son’s future. “REHAMS was very inspirational for my son. It has definitely given him a head start in preparing for an engineering career. I would advise any parent who has a child aspiring to be an engineer to take part in REHAMS. We are looking forward to Chris participating in future programs with Julie Harris (MEP Coordinator) and the staff. They were very helpful.”

Last fall, the College of Engineering (CoE) established the Office for Diversity Programs and appointed Formosa Plastics Endowed Professor, Kelly Rush, Associate Dean for Women and Minorities. Dr. Rusch leads the newly-instituted office, overseeing both the Women in Engineering (WEP) and Minority Engineering Program (MEP). The Office for Diversity Programs initiatives focus on the recruitment and retention of female and minority students to thereby improve overall enrollment and graduation rates, and enhance diversity both within the CoE and the workforce. The College’s goal in establishing the Office for Diversity Programs is “to enhance the academic environment for talented female and minority students and to increase the visibility of highly qualified women and minorities in all sectors of engineering.”

Chris, Delicia, and Jessica are all considering studying engineering at LSU. Attracting young aspiring students to CoE, and fostering their educational development, underscores the importance of short and long term efforts of the Office for Diversity Program.

Article by Akilah Taylor, LSU CoE Diversity & Faculty Programs, Office of Development, 225-578-0092, atayor1@lsu.edu

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