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Cecchi among engineering deans to sign statement of diversity letter presented at White House

August 4, 2015 - By Kim Delker

University of New Mexico School of Engineering Dean Joseph L. Cecchi was one of more than 100 engineering deans around the country to sign the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) Engineering Deans' Council Diversity Initiative letter as part of White House Demo Day on Tuesday.

The letter was presented amid activities and initiatives focused on inclusive entrepreneurship.

The deans signed the letter to reiterate their commitment to building a pipeline for the next generation of American engineers and entrepreneurs. ASEE declared 2014-2015 as the Year of Action in Diversity, and the letter states the deans' commitments to provide increased opportunity to women and underrepresented groups to pursue engineering careers.

The deans and their universities committed to the following four actions:

• Develop a diversity plan for their engineering programs with the help and input of national engineering organizations.

• Commit to at least one K-12 or community college pipeline activity with explicit targeted goals and measures of accountability aimed at increasing the diversity and inclusiveness of the engineering student body.

• Commit to developing strong partnerships between research-intensive engineering schools and non-Ph.D.-granting engineering schools serving populations who are underrepresented in engineering.

• Commit to the development and implementation of proactive strategies to increase the representation of women and underrepresented minorities in the faculty.

The full letter can be accessed here.

In an email to the School of Engineering leadership, Cecchi emphasized the school’s commitment to diversity in attracting and retaining underrepresented and female students, crediting the efforts of Engineering Student Services and K-12 outreach programs within the school. He also mentioned that the school has improved efforts in faculty hiring.

"Over recent years, all of the departments have enhanced the diversity among women and underrepresented groups in faculty hiring, and I thank the current and past department chairs for this important outcome," Cecchi said. "We have also partnered with non-Ph.D.-granting engineering schools in the region, for example, the Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute. Having the ASEE Engineering Deans' Council take such a strong, visible position on this matter is a critical and important step forward for the engineering education community."

The first-ever White House Demo Day invited a diverse group of entrepreneurs from around the country to share their stories of individual innovation. The day featured more than 30 startup teams. In addition, several new steps to promote inclusive entrepreneurship and innovation were announced, including a new entrepreneurship training program developed by the National Science Foundation and an effort to engage students in science, technology, engineering, and math and the national laboratories.

White House Demo Day is part of the president's Startup America initiative to celebrate, inspire, and accelerate high-growth entrepreneurship throughout the country.