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Diversifying the Field of Engineering

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Diversifying the Field of Engineering

An answer to Silicon Valley's race problem

(Image: Ed Eckstein)

The National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering—better known as NACME—may hold a key to one of Silicon Valley’s most highly publicized and seemingly intractable problems: its pervasive lack of diversity. The nonprofit, founded 41 years ago as a scholarship organization, is partnering with Hewlett-Packard to set aside funds for minority students who study computer science or software engineering.

Working with Silicon Valley is just one of NACME’s recent developments. Led by Irving Pressley McPhail, Ph.D., NACME also recently won its first National Science Foundation grant. The organization is the largest private provider of scholarship support to underrepresented groups—African Americans, Latinos, and Native Americans—in engineering education. Since its founding, NACME has provided $142 million in scholarships to 24,000 students of color. And NACME scholars outperform their peers: They have a 79% six-year retention rate to a degree (and a GPA of 3.233). Engineering students in general have a six-year retention rate of 62%; minority engineering students that are not in NACME have a retention rate of 39%.

[Related: The Case for Coding in School Curriculum]

Engineering is a critical field that the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects will enjoy robust job growth. According to a 2012 post on Forbes.com, of the 15 most valuable college majors in terms of pay and job opportunity through 2020, engineering majors make up one third. The No. 1 major? Biomedical engineering; software, environmental, civil , and petroleum engineering majors were all in the top nine.

Yet African Americans make up only 3.6% of the engineering workforce and 2.6% of engineering faculty, despite constituting 14.8% of the U.S. college-aged population.

To accomplish its mission of diversifying the field of engineering, NACME employs a four-pronged strategy: pre-engineering, research and program evaluation, and engineering public policy, in addition to scholarship support.

NACME recognizes that developing the strong math and critical thinking skills that engineering requires has to start early. The organization has developed a set of materials that introduce middle school students to engineering—that explain what engineering is and why it’s exciting, asking, Have you ever wanted to build a mobile phone or design a high-tech car? The materials explain that, if you have, engineering may be the career for you. They also point out the courses that should be taken and focus on parents, kids, and middle school guidance counselors.

At the high school level, NACME has partnered with two other renowned national organizations: the National Academy Foundation and Project Lead The Way. “We’re involved in an important initiative designed to open academies of engineering across the nation,” says McPhail, president and CEO of NACME since 2009.

Community College students

McPhail, who previously led two large community colleges: Community College of Baltimore County, as chancellor; and St. Louis Community College, as president, says, “I have a strong commitment to the community college. We’re using the 51 universities in our partner network and seeking to leverage support for community college transfers.” Noting that community colleges are feeder schools to certain engineering programs, he says, “We want to incentivize that effort by setting aside a percentage of our scholarships for students who transfer from community college.”

Regarding NACME’s public policy strategy, McPhail says ,“We try to take our message to Washington, to make certain when the Congress and others debate issues of U.S. competitiveness that there’s a clear recognition that America can never reach and maintain its cutting-edge posture in STEM unless there is a concerted effort to bring more underrepresented minorities” into the field.

Software engineering

In spite of the glamour and ubiquity of technology, only a minority of NACME scholars major in computer science and software engineering. “In our most recent annual report you’ll see that about 3% of our NACME scholars are majoring in computer science or information systems technology; 11% are in computer engineering,” McPhail notes.

Yet, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, by 2020, 50% of STEM jobs are projected to be in computer science related fields. So NACME is partnering with Hewlett-Packard to build a pipeline for underrepresented groups in computer science.

“Hewlett-Packard, a longtime member of the NACME board—David Packard was an original co-founder of NACME—is walking with us in a project called Go West,” says McPhail, “an initiative led by Hewlett-Packard designed to get NACME in front of Silicon Valley, which had recently been trying to hire minority workers. NACME can be a solution to their conundrum. Led by executives at Hewlett-Packard and others with my own internal NACME staff,” Go West has the goal of getting NACME to increase its financial support for underrepresented minority students who major in computer science, software engineering, and computer engineering, McPhail says.

For more information about NACME, to download its materials for middle school and high school students, or to access its extensive research briefs, go to www.nacme.org.

 

NACME President and CEO to Address Class of 2015 at NJIT's 99th Commencement

PRESS RELEASE
Contact Information: Tanya Klein Public Relations 973-596-3433

NACME President and CEO Irving Pressley McPhail to Address Class of 2015 at NJIT's 99th Commencement

 

NJIT will confer honorary degrees upon Irving Pressley McPhail, Ed.D. and Charles Elachi, Ph.D. at the 99th Commencement exercises Tuesday, May 19, 2015, 9 a.m. at the Prudential Center in Newark.

Charles Elachi, Director of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, to Receive an Honorary Doctor of Science

New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) will confer honorary degrees upon two distinguished individuals at the 99th Commencement exercises Tuesday, May 19, 2015, 9 a.m. at the Prudential Center in Newark.

Irving Pressley McPhail, Ed.D., president and chief executive officer of the National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering, Inc. (NACME) will deliver the commencement address and receive an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters. 

Charles Elachi, Ph.D, director of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and a vice president at California Institute of Technology, will receive an honorary Doctor of Science. 

Dr. McPhail was named the sixth president and chief executive officer of NACME on September 1, 2009. He joined NACME in 2007 as executive vice president and chief operating officer. Prior to joining NACME, Dr. McPhail founded and served as principal of The McPhail Group LLC. He served 15 years as a college president or chancellor at The Community College of Baltimore County, St. Louis Community College at Florissant Valley, and LeMoyne-Owen College. Dr. McPhail also served as Chief Operating Officer of the Baltimore City Public Schools. He is the co-editor of “Teaching African American Learners to Read: Perspectives and Practices,” published by the International Reading Association in 2005, and the author of more than 50 journal articles, chapters, monographs, and technical reports. He earned a bachelor’s degree in development sociology from Cornell University, a master’s degree in reading from the Harvard Graduate School of Education., and a doctorate in reading/language arts from the University of Pennsylvania as a National Fellowships Fund Fellow.

Dr. Elachi has been the director of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) since May 2001. Prior to becoming director, he was JPL’s director for Space and Earth Science Programs beginning in 1982, where he was responsible for the development of numerous flight missions and instruments for Earth observation, planetary exploration and astrophysics. He has been a principal investigator on a number of NASA-sponsored studies and flight projects including the Shuttle Imaging Radar series, the Magellan Imaging Radar, and the Cassini Titan Radar. Dr. Elachi is the author of over 230 publications in the fields of active microwave remote sensing and electromagnetic theory, and he holds several patents in those fields. He received his B.Sc. (1968) in physics from University of Grenoble, France; the Dipl. Ing. (1968) in engineering from the Polytechnic Institute, Grenoble, and both a M.Sc. (1969) and Ph.D. (1971) degree in electrical sciences from the California Institute of Technology. He also has a M.Sc. (1983) degree in geology from the University of California, Los Angeles, and an MBA (1979) from the University of Southern California. 

For more information on NJIT’s 99th Commencement, visit the Commencement website:commencement.njit.edu/.

One of the nation's leading public technological universities, New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) is a top-tier research university that prepares students to become leaders in the technology-dependent economy of the 21st century. NJIT's multidisciplinary curriculum and computing-intensive approach to education provide technological proficiency, business acumen and leadership skills. With an enrollment of more than 10,000 graduate and undergraduate students, NJIT offers small-campus intimacy with the resources of a major public research university. NJIT is a global leader in such fields as solar research, nanotechnology, resilient design, tissue engineering, and cyber-security, in addition to others. NJIT ranks 5th among U.S. polytechnic universities in research expenditures, topping $110 million, and is among the top 1 percent of public colleges and universities in return on educational investment, according to PayScale.com.
 
 

NACME CEO to Speak at Engineering Commencement

 

NACME CEO to Speak at Engineering Commencement

Irving Pressley McPhail, president and chief executive officer of the National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering Inc., is the 2015 commencement speaker for the College of Engineering.

Engineering commencement for the class of 2015 will take place at 5 p.m. Saturday, May 9, in Barnhill Arena on the University of Arkansas campus.

Irving Pressley McPhail, president and chief executive officer of the National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering Inc.
 

 

McPhail was named the sixth president and CEO of NACME in 2009, after joining the council in 2007 as executive vice president and chief operating officer. Under McPhail's presidency, NACME received the 2012 Claire Felbinger Award for Diversity from the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology.

Prior to joining NACME, McPhail founded and served as principal of The McPhail Group LLC. He served 15 years as a college president or chancellor at The Community College of Baltimore County, St. Louis Community College at Florissant Valley, and LeMoyne-Owen College. McPhail also served as chief operating officer of the Baltimore City Public Schools. Under his leadership, The Community College of Baltimore County was named one of 12 Vanguard Learning Colleges in the U.S. and Canada in 2000 by the League for Innovation in the Community College, won the Bellwether Award in the category of Planning, Finance and Governance in 2000 and was awarded the PBS O'Banion Prize for Leading the Way to Change in Teaching and Learning in 2003.

McPhail has held tenured full professorships at three colleges and universities and served as an affiliate or visiting professor at the University of Maryland at College Park, the University of Pennsylvania, and Morgan State University. He is the co-editor of "Teaching African American Learners to Read: Perspectives and Practices," published by the International Reading Association in 2005 and the author of more than 50 journal articles, chapters, monographs, and technical reports.

McPhail serves on the board of directors of the Society of Manufacturing Engineers Education Foundation, the Alliance for Science & Technology Research in America, and the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology.

McPhail earned a bachelor's degree in development sociology at Cornell University and a master's degree in reading at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. He earned a doctorate in reading and language arts at the University of Pennsylvania as a National Fellowships Fund Fellow and was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Engineering degree from the Polytechnic Institute of New York University in 2010.

Find additional information about the College of Engineering commencement.

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