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Universities Team Up To Engineer Diversity

April 21, 2002

Arthur Nead
Phone: 865-5714

anead@tulane.edu

With the strokes of two pens, Tulane and Xavier universities rededicated themselves to the goal of increasing the number of minority engineers. During a ceremony on April 4 at the Lindy Boggs Center, Tulane University President Scott Cowen and Xavier University President Norman Francis signed memoranda of agreement that commit the two institutions to continue their partnership in a pair of dual-degree engineering programs.

"Both programs are designed for students starting out their studies at Xavier University," says Efstathios Michaelides, Tulane's associate dean of engineering in charge of graduate studies and research. The students selected for the programs complete their bachelor's degree requirements at Xavier and take engineering classes at Tulane that will lead either to an undergraduate or graduate degree in engineering.

The initial undergraduate program designed in 1982 was aimed at increasing the number of African-Americans in the engineering profession by enabling African-American graduates to become professionally licensed engineers, says Michaelides. Engineering associations that confer professional licenses generally require a bachelor of science degree in engineering from an accredited institution, explains Michaelides.

"In 1982, and even now, Xavier did not have a school of engineering," he said. The graduate degree program established in 1999 is intended to remedy a different shortfall--the number of African-American professionals with advanced engineering degrees.

"The graduate program is appropriate for students who intend to work with the government, or for those who want a career in research and development for industry," says Michaelides.

Michaelides and Elia Eschenazi, an engineering and physics professor at Xavier, launched the graduate program as an affiliate to the Tulane-Xavier Center for Bioenvironmental Research's coastal restoration program.

"Both Eschenazi and I were very much concerned that there wasn't a good number of black graduate engineers at Tulane. In general, minority representation at Tulane was less that what would be desired of an institution like ours," says Michaelides. "So we authored a research proposal for this degree program to be funded."

Michaelides and Eschenazi found funding through the Office of Naval Research. The two colleagues now serve as co-directors of the program. Both the undergraduate and the graduate dual-degree programs have been very successful, says Michaelides.

"The students who have come through the programs have been excellent and are very marketable. Graduate schools have been eager to give them scholarships, and industry comes to hire them."

Arthur Nead may be reached at anead@tulane.edu.

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