Watson develops Engineering Scholarship ProgramTweet
Engineering and computer science degrees are among the few professional degrees a person can complete at the undergraduate level. In a prominent study looking at the future of engineering and computer science, titled “Engineering 2020,” a group of engineering educators and working engineers recommended that the master’s degree be the baseline for these professional programs.
But when entry-level engineers can make a good starting salary with only a bachelor’s degree, it can be difficult to convince them to continue their education.
“At Binghamton we enroll a lot of freshmen because of our reputation,” said Stephen Zahorian, professor and chair of electrical and computer engineering. “What we have great difficulty doing is convincing them to stay for a master’s degree even though it would benefit them.”
Accordingly, Zahorian and others from the Watson School of Engineering and Applied Science have developed the Engineering 2020 Scholarship Program, designed to recruit students – especially those from under-represented groups including women and minorities – who may not otherwise continue on to complete a master’s degree.
The program is funded through a grant from the National Science Foundation to support opportunities in Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) and will provide approximately $600,000 over five years, funding three cohorts of around 10 students for the final three years of their integrated five-year baccalaureate and master’s degree program. Individual awards will range from $4,500 to $7,000 annually.
In collaboration with Zahorian, Douglas Summerville, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering, and James Pitarresi, professor and chair of mechanical engineering, have led a panel that awarded scholarships of $65,000 for this academic year.
Application and selection of the first cohort occurred prior to the start of the fall semester. Students were initially screened based on financial need, after which a committee of faculty and industry partners chose the final 11 recipients based on their academic performance and a personal interview.
The Engineering 2020 Scholarship program also aims to keep this talent in upstate New York by encouraging local industrial internships during the final three years of degree completion, with the ultimate goal of increasing placement after graduation.
One of this year’s recipients, electrical engineering major Patricia Patterson Moat, transferred to Binghamton University from Broome Community College. A top student and Vestal native, Moat is a perfect candidate.
“The scholarship program is a great opportunity for me to go further in college,” she said. “My husband was unfortunately affected by the recent layoffs and we were not sure if I should go back to the work force or continue my schooling.” The scholarship gave her that chance.
Along with the other scholarship recipients, Moat meets for a weekly seminar in addition to her full class schedule.
“The overriding goal is for these students to graduate and be successful,” Zahorian said. “With the spirit of the program being to excite them about the STEM disciplines.”
Zahorian and his colleagues have developed a theme for this year’s seminar based on the National Academies of Engineering’s Grand Challenges for Engineering: 14 of society’s most pressing issues that engineers may be able to help solve. Each student will be asked to investigate a challenge, give a presentation and lead a discussion on the issue.
Other ideas for the seminar include objective debates on controversial topics implied by the Grand Challenges such as regional issues including gas drilling and windmill farms. The scholarship students have also been encouraged to enter an Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) video competition that tries to inspire kids 11 to 13 years old to think about engineering and “How Engineers Make a World of Difference.”
“This grant will directly impact 30 students,” Zahorian said. “But the hope is that the residual impact will be well beyond those who receive the funding.”