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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

Texas A&M utility Gavin Grahovac (9) throws the ball during A&Ms game against Georgia on Friday, April 26, 2024, at Olsen Field. (CJ Smith/The Battalion)
Southern slugfest
May 23, 2024
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Texas A&M University System Chancellor John Sharp attends the Class of 1972 50-year reunion in Kyle Field on April 20, 2022.
A&M System’s Title IX director suspended after supporting Biden's Title IX changes
Nicholas Gutteridge, Managing Editor • May 23, 2024
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Texas A&Ms attendance for the Alabama game was at 108,101 fans ranking it at the third largest game in Kyle Field history.(Ishika Samant/The Battalion)
‘The Mexican 12th Man’
Ian Curtis, Sports Reporter • May 30, 2024

Growing up in the hills of Monterrey, Mexico, Pedro and Carlos Luna were surrounded by soccer.  Clad in the gold and blue of Tigres UANL,...

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Beekeeper Shelby Dittman scoops bees back into their hive during a visit on Friday, April 5, 2024. (Kyle Heise/The Battalion)
Bee-hind the scenes
Shalina Sabih, Sports Writer • May 1, 2024

The speakers turn on. Static clicks. And a voice reads “Your starting lineup for the Texas A&M Aggies is …” Spectators hear that...

Kennedy White, 19, sits for a portrait in the sweats she wore the night of her alleged assault inside the Y.M.C.A building that holds Texas A&M’s Title IX offices in College Station, Texas on Feb. 16, 2024 (Ishika Samant/The Battalion).
'I was terrified'
April 25, 2024
Scenes from 74
Scenes from '74
April 25, 2024
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Farewell from the graduating Battalion staff of 2024
Farewell from the graduating Battalion staff of 2024
The BattalionMay 4, 2024

Balancing the equation

 
 

Forty-seven percent of Texas A&M students are female, but the classrooms in the Zachry Engineering Center and other familiar campus math and science destinations remain predominantly male.
To this day, the trend of underrepresentation of women in fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) endures. Women currently compose around 20 percent of STEM and around 18 percent in engineering, according to Chris Kaunas of the Texas A&M Advance Center for Women Faculty. Efforts from The Dwight Look College of Engineering and its female leadership, outreach programs aimed at sparking science and math interest in young girls and a movement to change perceptions surrounding the fields seek to push against disproportionate gender representations and meet the demand for engineers in the job market.
25 by 25The 25 by 25 initiative, announced in January, has the stated goal of increasing the college of engineering’s student population from 11,281 to 25,000, partially by utilizing the historically underrepresented female population in STEM fields. Given the strong demand for engineers nationally and statewide, there are currently more positions that need to be filled than there are engineers in the U.S.
“Of course we have some excellent international students that come into the U.S. to study and stay, but on the other hand, we also have to rely on the people that are here,” she said. “And we just don’t have enough.”Banks said although the demand for engineers is already great, anticipated economic growth and the workforce’s natural fluctuations will further increase the need for engineers.”There will be growth in the economy, therefore we will need more engineers and there’s a drain of the workforce, so not only do we have to accommodate the growth due to the economic growth but we also have to fill those positions that will be vacated by retirements,” she said.Banks said women and minority students each make up 18-20 percent of the engineering college.”Our goal is to double the number of women and minorities,” Banks said. “So we’d like to be at 36 percent in both categories by 2025.”When comparing historical progressions in the representation of men and women in fields such as medicine, law, veterinary science and biology to those in engineering, Banks said the comparison is unsettling.”When I graduated in 1982, the percentage [of men to women in engineering] wasn’t that different than it is now,” Banks said. “We haven’t seen that drastic rise that you have in other disciplines and that is of grave concern.”Banks said bringing women into engineering is not only an overdue pursuit, but it is also crucial to meeting the goals of 25 by 25.”It’s an important aspect of 25 by 25 because to actually meet our numbers, we’ll need to engage everyone – many more women and minorities than we do now,” Banks said. “We aren’t going to hit our numbers if we don’t.”Pathway discussion Terri Reed-Rhoads, assistant dean of academic affairs for the College of Engineering, said the college is evaluating potential problems in recruitment and retention to increase the number of women graduating with engineering degrees.Rhoads said “pathways” are metaphorical representations of the paths students could take on the way to becoming an engineer. These pathways also give the college a means of finding problems by sectoring and examining the sections thereof.In order to get more women into the pathway of engineering, Banks said they need an informative and updated pathway map.Banks said this updated information is part of a current movement called “changing the conversation,” which involves altering the way engineering is presently advertised to the general population.”You somehow have to convince those students that this is a great profession,” Banks said. “It is certainly as impactful as being a physician, attorney, politician or other areas. So the question is: How do you convert what we do into a message that will appeal to a broad range of potential students?”For women in particular Banks said a vital factor in presentation is that the message must effectively convey the beneficial impacts engineering has and can have on the world.”There have been studies that have shown that particularly women students become more engaged or have more positive impressions of engineering if you present it as more impactful,” Banks said.Lainy Dromgoole, senior radiological health engineering major and president of Society of Women Engineers, SWE, said she was leaning toward a career in medicine in the hopes of helping people. In the end, though, she said she found a way to aid others in radiological health engineering.”As a radiological health engineer, I would be responsible for keeping people safe from radiation and by using those technologies to keep people safe,” she said. “I would be making a difference.”Outreach & perceptionMagdalina Lagoudas, director of engineering student services and academic programs, said there are many outreach programs that may also function as potential recruitment programs.Lagoudas said several programs designed specifically for females have been successful in increasing the number of female students applying and being admitted to the college. These programs are held for middle school and high school students.”We have seen our number of females coming into the college grow significantly,” Lagoudas said. “In the fall of 2011, 338 females entered engineering. This coming fall, we don’t have all the students signed up yet, but we have 502 females. So this is a significant change in female recruitment.”Lagoudas said each program serves to present younger students with role models in the form of successful and happy female engineering students.”It’s not the money only, it’s being happy with your life. I think it makes an impact on a 17-year-old that is trying to decide, ‘Do I really want to work that hard?'” Lagoudas said.An additional marker of these programs’ success is the number of students who enter, or attempt to enter, the Texas A&M engineering pathway.Lagoudas said 80 percent of the students who attended a high school program hosted by Women Exploring Engineering have been admitted to the college for the fall semester.When members of SWE approached Banks expressing worry about which applicants to accept for its SWE Summer Camp for Girls, Banks said it was a simple choice.”Let them all in,” Banks said. “If we miss one student like that, it would just be a horrible shame. If we miss one opportunity to inspire a young woman to move into this field, than we’ve missed a great opportunity.”Another part of changing the conversation is clarifying the prerequisites for becoming an engineer.Banks said people often fixate on the idea that in order to succeed in becoming an engineer, one must be outstandingly brilliant in mathematics and science.”Quite frankly, counselors in institutions in high schools and grade schools often state that if you’re not excellent and outstanding in math and science then don’t even think about going to be an engineer,” Banks said. “It’s incorrect to state it in that way.”Endeavoring to address the lack of engineering awareness among high school students, Lagoudas said a program called Teachers Summit, offered every year to 100 high school STEM teachers, is designed to present high school teachers with new ways of explaining and promoting engineering.”What we’re trying to push with this is for the teachers themselves to start changing their thoughts about ‘what is engineering.’ It’s not cars and airplanes and bridges, it’s more than that,” Lagoudas said.Banks said the 100 teachers who attended the program this year educate more than 76,000 students in Texas.Although these programs have shown success, Banks said, in the case of women and minority students, efforts to frame positive views may need support from an extra dimension – timing.”Studies have shown that if women and minority students don’t have a positive view of engineering by third and fourth grade, they won’t come into the discipline,” Banks said. “Most people think of recruiting in the high school years but women and minorities have to have a positive view of our discipline earlier. And if they do, they will come.”Retention Rhoads said doubling the number of female students in the college is dependent on not only recruitment efforts, but also on ensuring that women who enter the college will stay in the college.Dromgoole said SWE is one of the organizations that could help increase retention rates. Upperclassmen in the organization try to assist underclassmen with these transitions through their “big sis-little sis” program.”[Upperclassmen] also talk about internship opportunities, things we’ve done in our major and where we’re thinking of going, just to get the freshmen started thinking about it early,” Dromgoole said.Rhoads said favorable trends appear after students reach their junior year. This, she said, is an example of why retention must be examined in a focused fashion.”Freshmen and sophomore retention are big issues in engineering, but once we get a student to junior year, we’ll lose very few of them,” she said.Banks said to address retention issues action must be taken to not only cultivate interest and enthusiasm, but also to maintain it through the years.Although she would like to double the number of women, Banks said one of the main ideas behind 25 by 25 is to improve the engineering program and the value of the education it provides.”I contend in 2025, we will have a better educational experience for our students than we do today, even though we’re twice the size,” Banks said. “It’s important to note though that if our minority and women percentages in engineering were the same as the percentage in the general population – we’ve solved the STEM issue.”

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