AREVA Inc. has given $35,000 to be the title sponsor of the AREVA Explore Engineering program at Sweet Briar College in the summer and fall of 2013 and spring of 2014.
Although AREVA has been a partner of the College’s Margaret Jones Wyllie ’45 Engineering Program in the past, it has not previously underwritten the four-year-old Explore Engineering series, and will be the first sponsor to do so.
Sweet Briar hosts three Explore events a year for high school girls, including a weeklong residential camp that immerses the students in both the college experience and the possibilities of an engineering career. The summer program and spring and fall weekend mini-camps are hands-on, team-based and structured to emphasize creativity, problem solving and design principles.
So far, more than 200 high school girls from across the country — including several from the Lynchburg area — have attended one or more of the camps. For AREVA, sponsoring the program is an exceptional opportunity to serve the community where it works. And it makes good business sense.
“As AREVA faces a shortage of qualified engineers, this program is a great fit for our workforce development strategy because it addresses both the STEM education and diversity gaps in our country,” said Gary Mignogna, AREVA Inc. senior vice president of engineering and projects. “By supporting local STEM programs like this one, we’re ensuring the future success of not only our company, but of our region as a whole.”
Sweet Briar is one of only two women’s colleges in the U.S. to offer an ABET-accredited engineering degree. The curriculum focuses on mechanical engineering while engaging students in opportunities to improve the quality of life for others through engineering design.
Wyllie Program director Hank Yochum notes that beyond the personal rewards of a challenging career, the prospect of making a difference in people’s lives attracts many students to the profession. Engineering impacts so many areas — medicine, transportation, and food and energy production, to name a few. Yet there is some truth to the adage that today’s solutions can become tomorrow’s problems, Yochum says, so it’s important to bring different perspectives to bear in the process.
“We need a wide range of creative ideas from engineers and scientists,” Yochum says. “I firmly believe that a more diverse group of engineers will come up with better designs. A more diverse group may also think more thoughtfully and holistically about the potential impacts of engineering and technology on society. With the Explore program, we seek out students who are underrepresented in the field to encourage them to pursue engineering.”
To that end, the Explore series has been effective, with 20 percent of participants matriculating to Sweet Briar’s Wyllie program. Combined with those who choose to study engineering elsewhere, it can make significant contributions to widening the pool of highly qualified graduates entering the job market.
“AREVA’s investment in educating women engineers in and for Central Virginia represents the best kind of partnership between business and higher education for the good of the community,” said Jo Ellen Parker, president of Sweet Briar College. “Sweet Briar is proud of Explore Engineering and its relationship with AREVA.”