March 22, 2002

Ask President Clough
Clough answers student questions from fall

March 22, 2002


President Wayne Clough speaks at his State of the Institute address. He will answer questions from the event in the 'Nique for the next few weeks.

How does Georgia Tech plan to increase the number of women and minority students? What strategies are in place to utilize student organizations and external resources such as Tech's connection with metro-Atlanta HBCU's in our recruiting efforts?

As a national leader in bringing women and minority students into the professions represented in its mission areas, Georgia Tech appreciates that no single strategy is adequate if progress in this area is to be made. Today, we support and fund an array of programs ranging from the K-12 to the Ph.D. level with both a campus impact and a national reach. While there is no specific measure of such activities, we know from the experience that we are one of the most active universities in the nation in support of the participation of women and minorities in the professions represented in our curriculum. Even so, we appreciate we have much to do.

We have had some visible success in our efforts. For example, in engineering, Georgia Tech is currently ranked number one in the production of all degrees for African-Americans, number one in the number of undergraduate degrees conferred to women and in the top five among graduate degrees conferred to women. The publication Black Issues in Higher Education recently hosted a reception for Georgia Tech, citing us as the first university in U.S. history to have graduated the largest number of African-American engineers at all degree levels, bachelors, M.S. and Ph.D's, in the same year. According to national statistics for the year 2000, Georgia Tech graduated 13 percent of the African-Americans with a Ph.D. in engineering.

In addition to engineering we are seeing positive growth in minority participation in other areas. For example, over the past three years, we graduated the largest number of African-Americans with Ph.D's in Chemistry. Overall, we experienced a 3.4 percent increase in the percentage of African-American students over the past five years. The number of African-American students at the master's level grew from 129 in 1997 to 149 today, and grew at the undergraduate level from 867 in 1997 to 886 today. Over the past decade, the number of women students increased 42 percent from 3,025 to 4,292 in 2001.

What lies ahead? My goal for Georgia Tech is to continue to be a leader in the nation in helping address the disparities created by the discriminatory practices of the past. I want to see the day when the term "minority" or "under-represented minority" no longer has any meaning on our campus. The road is not made easier by the absence of affirmative action programs, but in every challenge lies an opportunity.

First, we have to recognize the inherent value in programs that work. One of these is the outstanding partnership that is found in the Dual Degree Program. This program was developed to allow students from the Atlanta University Center schools and institutions like Agnes Scott to spend two years gaining their liberal arts background before transferring to Georgia Tech to complete an engineering degree. This program is unique in that the students obtain two degrees, one from Georgia Tech and one from the institution they matriculated in, as opposed to conventional "3-2" programs where only one degree is obtained. As of today, over 800 students from the AUC schools have participated and a growing number of women from Agnes Scott are using this route.

Another success story is the FOCUS program, which was founded ten years ago to encourage minority students to undertake graduate study in professions like architecture, business, engineering and science. With Georgia Tech's encouragement and financial support for accommodations and travel, junior and senior level students from around the nation come to our campus for a convocation during Martin Luther King, Jr. week. This program started with 40 students, but because of its success over time, this year attracted 346 students from 105 universities around the nation. And this year we added two new elements to FOCUS. First we included a group of very bright minority high school students from local schools and invited their parents to join us. Second we added 20 "fellows" at the senior level consisting of Ph.D. students about to obtain their degrees or those already in post-doc positions. In post-FOCUS surveys we have found wide appreciation for the elements added this year.

Once female or minority students are here, Georgia Tech seeks to retain them through resources provided in the Office of Minority Education and the Women's Resource Center. In 1996 we created the Office of Diversity Programs, and in 1997 the Women's Resource Center in the Division of Student Affairs that delivers programs across campus to help everyone understand the need for an appreciation of the value of diversity and to support women students. Today Georgia Tech has one of the highest retention rates for women and minority students in the nation.

Other efforts designed to help us recruit minority students include the work of the Office of Undergraduate Admissions, which now has an advisory board of current African-American and Hispanic students who serve as hosts to selected campus events, provide support-telephone and e-mail-in recruiting students, and serve as ambassadors to their home high schools. We work closely with the Atlanta school system to support students with strong qualifications to come to Georgia Tech. And this past year we received a gift from a major foundation that has allowed us to hire a recruiter who specializes on Hispanic students.

Georgia Tech has sought special funding in national competitions to support our efforts at the graduate and post-graduate level and to allow us to build our national leadership role. We are one of only a few schools to have received two multimillion-dollar grants from the National Science Foundation, one to support recruitment and retention of women and the other for similar purposes for minority students. Four years ago with the help of Dr. Mark Smith of Electrical and Computer Engineering, we set out to use out strengths to create a national network of universities and federal agencies that would work together to help improve the role of women and minorities in engineering and science. This effort, entitled EMERGE, now has over twenty top universities and many federal agencies as members, and has been cited by the National Science Foundation as a model for success.

Beyond the activities described to this point at the Institute level, many units at Georgia Tech have their own programs that are tailored to meet specific needs. The College of Engineering has been a leader, but today all of our Colleges have active and visible programs. The Ivan Allen College, through the national leadership roles of its faculty and Dean Sue Rosser and Chair Willie Pearson, is playing a significant role not only in improving conditions here, but nationally.