Mines News

Release Date Tuesday, September 20, 2016

SD Mines Awarded $1.1 Million from National Science Foundation, John T. Vucurevich for Program to Graduate More Women in Engineering

From left to right: Shaobo Huang, Ph.D., Department of Mechanical Engineering; Jennifer Benning, Ph.D., Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering; Cassandra Degen, Ph.D., Department of Mechanical Engineering; Paula Jensen, Department of Industrial Engineering; Kelli McCormick, Ph.D., Department of Mining Engineering & Management; Michael West, Ph.D., Department of Materials & Metallurgical Engineering; Jon Kellar, Ph.D., Department of Materials & Metallurgical Engineering; Andrea Brickey, Ph.D., Department of Mining Engineering & Management.

RAPID CITY, S.D. (Sept. 20, 2016) – The South Dakota School of Mines & Technology has been awarded over $1.1 million from the National Science Foundation (NSF) and John T. Vucurevich Foundation for the Culture & Attitude Program. 

The program aims to attract, retain and graduate more women and underrepresented students in engineering through scholarships, industry mentors, professional development and new curriculum that engages diverse learning styles. The Culture & Attitude program will also partner with local nonprofits, the city of Rapid City and the Native American Sustainable Housing Initiative to incorporate service learning into the classroom.

“The nation needs more engineers and women are still underrepresented in the profession,” said Heather Wilson, President of the School of Mines.  “This grant will help us look at learning styles and how to more be more effective in our teaching.” 

In addition to support for students, the grant will allow Mines to evaluate its curriculum to ensure that it is preparing engineers with different learning styles and problem solving strengths.  The university has previously done research on brain dominance in engineering students.  While there is good research to suggest that teams of people with different problem solving strengths produce better results, engineering education tends to heavily emphasize analytical thinking over imaginative thinking, sequential thinking or interpersonal thinking.  

“The traditional engineering curriculum may not engage students of different learning styles. The NSF award contains funding for faculty and curriculum development to change the curriculum to better engage underrepresented groups, particularly women, in engineering,” says Principle Investigator Michael West, Ph.D., Department of Materials & Metallurgical Engineering. 

The $982,102 NSF and the $125,000 John T. Vucurevich grants will support underrepresented students in the five engineering departments that make up the Culture and Attitude team: civil, industrial, mechanical, metallurgical and mining engineering. 

In collaboration with these departments, the Culture & Attitude program will launch new curriculum with experiential, service and creative learning components to better retain students who are creative, empathic and organizational in addition to analytical. 

New curricular components include:

  • Service Learning – Understanding the social implications and cultural considerations of design by analyzing homes designed and built by the Native American Housing Initiative
  • Researching sustainability issues proposed by the Rapid City Mayor’s Committee on Sustainability and presenting findings to the City Council and Mayor
  • Forensic Analysis
  • 3D Printing
  • Creativity And Innovation
  • Martians Vs Earthlings: Addressing Bias
  • Gold Rush Laboratory
  • Forensic Analysis Of Artifacts
  • Service Projects – Developing a community garden, orchard and learning center for Youth & Family Services

To evaluate success, the entering freshman class will be administered the HBDI assessment annually to track both retention of women and student diversity across quadrants. Results and best practices will be disseminated to the campus community and a national audience.

“The goal of this program is to change the culture of engineering. These young women are catalysts to make this happen. Mentoring, professional development, networking, academic support and technical and team-building activities, like welding, machining, rock climbing or archery, empowers them to succeed in an industrial setting,” said Paula Jensen, who manages the Culture & Attitude program and teaches in the Department of Industrial Engineering.

Other faculty and staff on  the grant include: Shaobo Huang, Ph.D., Department of Mechanical Engineering; Jon Kellar, Ph.D., Department of Materials & Metallurgical Engineering; Jennifer Benning, Ph.D., Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering; Cassandra Degen, Ph.D., Department of Mechanical Engineering; Andrea Brickey, Department of Mining Engineering; Kelli McCormick, Ph.D., Department of Mining Engineering, Stuart Kellogg, Ph.D., Department of Industrial Engineering and Lisa Carlson, director of the Student Success Center and the Women in Engineering & Science program.

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About SD Mines  

Founded in 1885, the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology is a science and engineering research university located in Rapid City, S.D., offering bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees. The university enrolls 2,778 students with a student-to-faculty ratio of 15:1. The SD School of Mines placement rate is 96 percent, with an average starting salary of $62,929. Find us online at www.sdsmt.edu and on Facebook and Twitter.

 

Contact: Dani Mason, (605) 430-3612, danielle.mason@sdsmt.edu