Indiana colleges adapt their engineering programs to attract more women into the field
Republic: A dual degree program between the University of Notre Dame and St. Mary's College has increased the percentage of women in the College of Engineering from 22 percent to 30 percent. In addition to more targeted recruitment, the program is helping to increase the national average of women in engineering which currently hovers around 18 percent.
"After Title IX was passed in 1972, women made monumental strides in higher-level education and now account for 50 percent or more of students in every field of study — as long as engineering is not included on that list.
The national average of women majoring in engineering is a meager 18 percent, said Cathy Pieronek, the assistant dean of academic affairs in engineering at the University of Notre Dame. When Pieronek and other officials at Notre Dame's College of Engineering realized the extent of the gender gap in 2002, they took steps to improve the situation.
In the past eight years, Notre Dame increased the percentage of women in the College of Engineering from 22 percent to 30 percent in this year's freshman class. Pieronek said this number is especially impressive when compared to the national average and percentages at other universities.
Pieronek said, however, the College of Engineering at Notre Dame is graduating more women thanks in large part to a dual program with neighboring Saint Mary's College. The program, which was formalized in 2005 but existed since the early 1970s, allows a Saint Mary's student to take pre-engineering classes starting her sophomore year at the college, while concurrently earning a degree in mathematics or one of the sciences. At the end of her four years, she graduates from Saint Mary's with a bachelor's degree in her selected major and then enrolls at Notre Dame for a fifth year in the College of Engineering."