June 13, 2011

As one of the liaisons between the Baton Rouge community and LSU’s College of Engineering (CoE), the Diversity Ambassadors organization strives to increase awareness and interest in the field of engineering among the next generation of diverse engineering students.

Conceived in fall 2009, the Diversity Ambassadors organization is an outreach team of female and minority LSU engineering students, who serve as role models, mentors and tutors to Baton Rouge K-12 students. By conducting engineering science demonstrations and hands-on activities at local middle and high schools, Diversity Ambassadors promote diversity recruitment and retention efforts for LSU CoE.

The organization’s mission is to:

  • Increase diversity in engineering,
  • Increase interest in science, technology, engineering and math-related fields,
  • Positively serve and impact the community, and
  • Provide positive role models for minority and female K-12 students

“The goal of the Diversity Ambassadors is to provide mentors to high school students allowing them to make a connection and become familiar with the field of engineering before entering college,” said Kelly Rusch, associate dean for research and diversity program, CoE. “We want to be able to show and provide opportunities for all students regardless of gender, race, and ethnicity.”

According to the Engineering Workforce Commission, less than 20 percent of women earned bachelor’s degrees in engineering in 2010. Similarly, African Americans and Hispanic Americans represented less than 15 percent of students who earned bachelor’s degrees in engineering in the same year.   

Through their work with secondary school students, LSU CoE’s Diversity Ambassadors are doing their part to change this. Recently, the organization built gumdrop bridges with elementary school students and hosted “Science and Math Night” at several Baton Rouge middle and high schools. By introducing these concepts to diverse K-12 student populations, the organization hopes to encourage these students to pursue a career in engineering.

“The best part about Diversity Ambassadors is knowing that you could be the one person to change a student’s mind by sharing your experiences with them,” said sophomore Briana Saul, chemical engineering junior, and a native of Round Rock, Texas. “Something that you consider a simple experience could be a life-changing story for others.”

Participating in Diversity Ambassadors offers many benefits to the members as well. The organization promotes the LSU students’ professional, personal, academic and social development. From professional planning and project management skills to soft skills, such as working in teams and leadership roles, Diversity Ambassadors present several opportunities for students to gain real-world experience.

“I chose to become a Diversity Ambassador not only give back to the Baton Rouge community but also to sharpen my leadership and people skills. I have become a more confident speaker and a more assertive leader,” said Awonu Lekia, petroleum engineering junior, and a native of Sugar Land, Texas. “But the best part about being a Diversity Ambassador is the positive influence I have on the middle and high schoolers. It’s a great feeling to know that you are leaving a positive impression on them regarding engineering and LSU.”

For more information about the Diversity Ambassadors or their community outreach initiatives, click here.

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