Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Change at Syracuse University - Female Engineers on the Rise!

I don't read the Daily Orange as much as I used to, but today this article caught my attention immediately. It said female enrollment had increased in Syracuse University's engineering school. 

This made me think back to my time there, and my observations then. 

SU's L.C. Smith College of Engineering seemed like the MCC or Oxford's colleges of yore, except there was never a bar on women. They simply didn't take up engineering.

This isn't about the small groups of girls from India or China that obviously would be doing nothing else at an American school. The only female students that took math or science came from these countries, is what it looked like then.  

Syracuse was/is a female majority university - with over 56 % of its students being women. And you'd see them far from the engineering school - taking up languages, art, politics, advertising, film & radio, journalism, music, home sciences, gardening, whatever, but not anything to do with machines or computers. 

During all my time there, I never met a girl that leaned toward an engineering major. Typically I'd hear they wanted to teach 'special needs kids' and become Jr. Mother Teresas. Why, I got a response to this effect all the time, when they were asked about study/career plans. I also got the sense they were at SU to have a good time.

Not there's anything wrong with that. I went to Newhouse at SU! (never mind its lofty reputation)
Photo: Keegan Barber | Staff Photographer, Daily Orange
But this here is a refreshing piece of news!

Women are showing an interest in science, and are actually taking up full engineering programs at SU. Some of them have even taken up mech. Way to go!

There's been a female dean of the school for over 5 years now.

The article talks about 'a lack of encouragement toward women to pursue math and science opportunities in college',  the perception that a four-year engineering program is too complex, and few female role models.

Also, I daresay some offered - 'How can college be fun this way? What about all the pah-taying?'

Dean Laura Steinberg is quoted as saying 'The United States needs to change how it communicates the field of engineering to female students. Describing not only the principles learned in engineering, but the problems that engineers solve as well, is an important distinction.' 

It looks like some of that has happened in the past twelve years.

Conspicuously, the Daily Orange didn't speak to or feature a single female American student of Asian or Indian origin. That, I believe, would have taken some of the newsworthiness away?