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Villanova University LEAD-ing the Way in Promoting Engineering Education and Careers

LEAD Summer Engineering Institute

A leader in STEM education outreach, Villanova’s College of Engineering hosts LEAD Summer Engineering Institute to increase underrepresented minority high school students’ exposure to engineering

VILLANOVA, Pa. – Answering an important call to action on a critical national issue, the College of Engineering at Villanova University continues to be a leader in promoting STEM (science, technology, engineering and math-related) education and careers.  For the third consecutive year, the College of Engineering will host some of the nation’s top high school students of diversity for an education and development program – Leadership Education And Development (LEAD) Summer Engineering Institute – aimed at increasing underrepresented minority high school students’ exposure to engineering. Villanova is the only engineering school in the country to host LEAD’s 2012 Summer Engineering Institute.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) stated in a 2010 report, Preparing the Next Generation of STEM Innovators, that “the nation needs ‘STEM innovators’ who have developed the expertise to become leading STEM professionals and perhaps the creators of significant breakthroughs or advances in scientific and technological understanding.” The NSF, along with the American Society of Engineering Education, National Academy of Engineering and numerous other professional organizations all seek as part of their missions to develop more U.S. citizens to study engineering and STEM-related fields.  On the most recent Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), however, the U.S. ranked 17th in science and 25th in math out of 34 countries. To ensure the nation remains competitive globally, an even greater commitment to STEM education and preparation is necessary.

“The United States is far behind in its preparation of students for STEM professions that would increase the opportunities in those fields,” said Dr. Stephen Jones, Associate Dean for Student and Strategic Programs, Villanova University Colleges of Engineering. “If the U.S. continues to under-educate its future engineering workforce, we won’t be competitive with the rest of the globe.”

As part of the LEAD Summer Engineering Institute at Villanova University, more than 30 high-achieving high school sophomores and juniors from across the country will call the campus home from July 8-26. During this three-week program, students will learn in interactive engineering classes, participate in interesting and relevant research projects, visit top regional companies and hear from University faculty and other industry experts. Goals of the program include raising students’ awareness about various engineering majors, increasing understanding of careers that emphasize engineering, enabling students to participate in engineering research and reinforcing the many ways engineering is integral to society.

In addition to larger preparation issues that exist in preparing future STEM professionals, there are also perception challenges surrounding engineering. “The people that may not think engineering is cool, and don’t understand what engineering really is, are using what engineers have created each and every day,” added Jones.  “These types of programs, like LEAD, can make engineering cool and inform students about engineering career opportunities. LEAD provides access to and knowledge about engineering that many students don’t have.”

This summer’s LEAD program at Villanova will focus on the theme of “Critical Infrastructure Repair after Natural Disasters in Developing Countries.” For instance, students may look at rebuilding infrastructure after the Haiti earthquake, from the various engineering disciplines. Instruction will be provided by College of Engineering faculty, with Villanova Engineering students serving as mentors. 

“We’ve done our best to replicate a true engineering college experience, particularly, a Villanova Engineering experience,” said Frank Hampton, PhD, Director of the Villanova LEAD Program and Assistant Professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. “Students will be exposed to hands-on learning with faculty and graduate students, as well as physical laboratory research and service learning.  This is unique to the LEAD Summer Engineering Institute program, and a testament to Villanova’s commitment to developing a well-rounded individual for the global society, not just a technician.”

The campus experience will include numerous engineering activities throughout the three-week program, such as making and testing concrete in the University’s Structural Engineering Teaching and Research Laboratory – a unique research environment where faculty and students regularly perform tests on a variety of full-scale structural elements. Additionally, the LEAD program will make stops at several of the region’s top companies including Boeing (July 17), PECO (July 20), and Dow (July 20), where students will hear from leaders in the engineering field.

Villanova’s College of Engineering is a leader in STEM education outreach – a national endeavor that focuses on improving middle and high school students’ interest and abilities in science, technology, engineering, and math-related subjects. The College’s faculty and students have developed STEM programs on a wide range of engineering topics – impacting hundreds of students from the greater Philadelphia area and Mid-Atlantic region. The LEAD Summer Engineering Institute is one of eight STEM outreach programs run by the College. Click here for more information about these STEM programs.

Leadership Education and Development (LEAD) was founded nearly 30 years ago as a national partnership of top U.S. corporations and graduate business schools encouraging talented students from diverse backgrounds to pursue careers in business. LEAD Engineering was launched in 2008 as a response to the high volume of LEAD Business applicants indicating an interest in the field of engineering. The program’s mission is to lay the foundation through an intense curriculum for an increase in the number and quality of diversified students interested in careers in engineering and other technical fields. To be considered students submitted an application to the LEAD program and were selected by the program’s directors. Click here for more information.

About Villanova University: Since 1842, Villanova University’s Augustinian Catholic intellectual tradition has been the cornerstone of an academic community in which students learn to think critically, act compassionately and succeed while serving others. There are more than 10,000 undergraduate, graduate and law students in the University's five colleges – the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the Villanova School of Business, the College of Engineering, the College of Nursing and the Villanova University School of Law. As students grow intellectually, Villanova prepares them to become ethical leaders who create positive change everywhere life takes them. Click here for more information.