NSF Awards Sweet Briar $563,500 for Women Engineers

| April 14, 2009

Sweet Briar Engineering has received a $563,500 grant from the National Science Foundation, with $490,000 of that amount designated for need- and merit-based scholarships.

Four-year scholarships of $10,000 per year will be available to seven qualified first-year students enrolling in the fall of 2010 and seven additional students enrolling in the fall of 2011.

Sweet Briar Engineering director Hank Yochum said the scholarships, coupled with additional financial support from the College and other sources, should cover most or all of a student’s tuition.

“A highly qualified student who can get this will get other aid from the College,” he said.

The balance of the grant, which will be disbursed between June 1, 2009, and May 30, 2014, will be applied toward recruiting and retention of women in Sweet Briar College’s engineering program. Planned recruiting events include a weeklong residential course for college credit held during the summers of 2009 and 2010 for rising high school juniors and seniors.

The College also is hosting an “Explore Engineering at Sweet Briar” weekend event for high school women April 17 and 18. Juniors and seniors attend information sessions, tour the engineering labs and classrooms, and engage in hands-on design projects. They meet the faculty and are partnered with engineering student mentors during the stay, which includes overnight accommodations in the residence halls and meals in the dining room.

Four additional weekend “Explore” events will be held over the next two academic years, with one planned for each semester. All of the recruiting events are covered by the NSF grant and are offered free or at nominal cost to participants.

The grant also supports outreach to high schools. SBC Engineering has developed science and engineering kits that allow students to engage in hands-on projects in their own classrooms. The kits can be brought to schools for on-site demonstrations, but the department also makes them available to teachers who request them by mail.

Retention activities under the grant include academic support, peer mentoring and a Women in Engineering Mentoring Program. Funds also are set aside to support Sweet Briar’s engagement in the larger engineering community. The monies allow students to travel to conferences and other engineering events.

Sweet Briar Engineering receives grants from the National Science Foundation under its STEM Talent Expansion Program (STEP). The goal of STEP is to increase representation of minority groups, including women, in science, technology, engineering and mathematics – often referred to as STEM – disciplines.

The grant for $563,500 is a Scholarships in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (S-STEM) project. To date, SBC Engineering has received more than $1.75 million in support from the National Science Foundation, while the College overall has received nearly $3 million in NSF grants since 2002.

Jonathan Green, dean of the College, said the new grant is a reflection of the growth of Sweet Briar’s engineering program.

“Unlike the [previous] implementation grant that was aimed at creating new opportunities for women to study engineering, this competitive grant has been awarded to Sweet Briar in recognition of the success and quality of this young program,” he said. “This is a significant confirmation from outside experts of the good work our faculty and students are already doing in engineering.”

Sweet Briar’s engineering curriculum emphasizes experiential learning, design as a fundamental element of engineering, and creating solutions to human problems in a global context. It stresses a multidisciplinary approach with particular emphasis on electrical and mechanical systems.

Visit www.engineering.sbc.edu or contact Yochum at hyochum@sbc.edu or (434) 381-6357 for more information about Sweet Briar Engineering.

Category: Engineering Science