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nderneath the calls for economic rescue is another “Civil engineering programs typically produce low num-
compelling reality requiring a comprehensive ap- bers of graduates every year,” Dr. DeLoatch said, “but even
proach: The infrastructure on which Americans built a modern in the largest programs you see very few African Americans
economy is old and crumbling. The 2007 collapse of the I-35 getting bachelor’s degrees. The bigger numbers come out of
West Bridge in Minneapolis roused many people, but alarm black colleges such as Morgan, and if you look at the num-
bells had rung for years. bers in each of the black colleges, the female percentages in
engineering have always been higher that in traditionally white
The American Society of Civil Engineers’ 2005 “Report
universities.”
Card on the Nation’s Infrastructure” called for $1.6 trillion in
investment just to keep transportation systems: bridges, roads,
and airports functioning. And following the I-35 West disaster, R
eports from others on the Council of HBCU Engineer-
ing Deans bear him out. Dr. C.J. Chen, dean of the
the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Florida A&M/Florida State University joint engineering school
Officials called for a multi-billion-dollar spending to keep high- — 35 percent of 2,000 undergraduates are African American,
ways and bridges safe. The civil engineering society’s updated 22 percent are Hispanic and 23 percent are female — said his
Report Card gave the nation’s infrastructure a “D” grade overall school graduates 80 civil engineers a year.
and called for $2.2 trillion in new investment.
Dr. Joseph Monroe, dean at North Carolina A&T State,
Candidate Obama responded by calling for the creation of said A&T graduates 80 civil and environmental engineers each
a national infrastructure fund to provide funding for the invest- year, and that with budget help of $1.5 million a year, he could
ments needed for upgrading America’s infrastructure. Congress increase it to 120 grads annually. A&T is also the only school in
didn’t support the call for an ongoing capital fund, but it did North Carolina – and one of few nationally – to offer the BS in
pass a version of the economic stimulus package. The $787- architectural engineering.
billion plan includes $13 billion to make federal buildings and
Hampton University and Virginia State University do not
public housing more energy-efficient and weatherize a million
offer civil engineering degrees, but Hampton’s Dean Eric Shep-
homes. It added $18 billion for environmental projects and $2
pard said that fixing the infrastructure requires a multi-disci-
billion for research on cleaner coal-fired power plants. Some
plinary approach in which chemical and electrical engineering
$120 billion was earmarked for repair and upgrading of the
graduates and architects are prominent. Hampton’s center for
infrastructure.
transportation studies, like the center at Morgan State, offers
E
ngineers praised the plan as a good down payment, training for majors to advance US technology and expertise in
but pressed for more including the training of thou- transportation through research and technology transfer.
sands of civil and environmental engineers. This is necessary
Norfolk State University also has no civil engineering
because:
program, but it has a multi-disciplinary team that designs both
• The National Science Foundation (NSF) says that 26 per- structures and the sensing and telemetry gear to monitor their
cent of all science and engineering degree-holders today are condition, plus it produces innovative materials science, elec-
aged 50 and older. Among doctorate holders, it’s 40 percent. tronics engineering, and computer science graduates.
• A quarter of all college-educated workers in science Tuskegee Dean Legand Burge said the demand for civil en-
and engineering were foreign-born. Among doctorate-holders, gineering majors from his school is up even amid the economic
that’s 40 percent. turmoil. Tuskegee, like other HBCUs, emphasizes internships
and real-world problem-solving. “A good student easily will
• Half of the US-based science and engineering doctorate-
have ten offers,” Dr. Burge said, but every HBCU faces the need
holders got their highest degrees from foreign institutions
to boost financial aid. “There needs to be a way for a good kid
• Many of the latter don’t expect to stay. In March, Duke
to get into college without stressing out the parents.”
University Executive-in-Residence Vivek Wadhwa noted in a
Or as A&T’s Dr. Monroe put it, there is a need to find
Washington Post commentary that visa hassles imposed on for-
annual funding of $100,000 for new faculty, $500,000 to up-
eign-born professionals, plus the climate for entrepreneurship
grade lab facilities, $5,000 in financial aid for each student,
in their home countries, are compelling them to leave.
and $300,000 to develop and deliver online and hybrid infra-
That begs a question: What will it take for blacks to rise
structural-related courses.
from the 5.1 percent of the science and engineering workforce
Finally, as Dr. DeLoatch said, we must remember that HB-
they now comprise? Much of the answer could be supplied by
CUs not only produce the most black bachelor’s degree hold-
increasing funding to historically black college and university
ers; they are also the schools that prepare graduate students
technical programs. HBCU’s make outsized contributions to
for the mainstream schools. They have to be seen for the value
the nation’s science and technology workforce.
that they provide.
NSF studies note the growth of women in engineering, but
Morgan State University’s Dr. Eugene DeLoatch points out that
HBCU engineering schools host bigger percentages of female
students than traditionally white institutions.
a
20 USBE & Information Technology I DEANS Edition 2009 www.blackengineer.com
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