MTU looks to boost diversity
By KAYLA STEWART, Gazette Writer
HOUGHTON - Michele Mahaffy is a hot commodity.
Standing out in a sea of suits and ties at Michigan Tech University's winter career fair last month, the MTU student admitted she's got a good reason for the 128 companies in attendance to take a second look: she's a woman and she wants to be an engineer.
"It's an edge to be working in this field as a female," she said. "I'd like to think that in a perfect world, they wouldn't be hiring me to fill a quota, but I won't complain if they offer me a job."
With 6,138 students enrolled at Tech this year, only 23 percent are women and 15 percent are minorities, the university is scrambling to increase its diversity. Highlighted as a priority in the strategic plan, it's also now marketed differently on the university's Web site and a reason behind handfuls of new degrees, including communication and culture studies, psychology and theater and entertainment technology.
Diversity "is an untapped market" for Tech, said President Glenn Mroz. "There could be a lot more women and minority students here."
Tech is not alone in its diversity struggles.
The University of Michigan School of Engineering boasted almost 5,000 students in the fall of 2005, of which only 25 percent are female and 10 percent are international.
The numbers at the Milwaukee School of Engineering are even lower with 83 percent of their 2,315 undergraduate class males, 17 percent women and 10 percent international students.
Tech increased its international student body by 88 students from last year, but the university is still at work, Mroz said.
Saleha Suleman, the director of International Programs and Services, said in an earlier interview that international students have a hard time getting VISAs to come to the U.S. Trying to recruit international students is not a problem isolated to Tech.