George Pierson, president and CEO of Parsons Brinckerhoff Inc., and a 1984 graduate of the Bucknell College of Engineering observed, "The United States is simply not graduating enough engineers, and students from under-resourced areas, including minorities, are under-represented in the profession. To remain competitive as a company and as a country, we must draw students of all backgrounds into engineering fields." Through its existing industry partnerships, Bucknell envisions the ESA as an innovative part of the national effort to increase diversity in the engineering workforce. ESA's mission is to make sure our students don't just survive Bucknell's challenging and highly-ranked engineering program, but rather that they thrive and become the best engineers they can be.
The ESA began in 2010 by providing assistance to 14 members of the class of 2014. The program is set up to provide targeted academic support, mentoring, and professional development opportunities to engineering students who may have had limited access to advanced mathematics and science courses or to engineering role models and other aspects of the profession before enrolling at Bucknell. The program has the support of Bucknell president John Bravman who commented: "The ESA makes a powerful statement to students from under-resourced schools who want to get an engineering education. It says, 'You are not alone.' We recognize that they have not necessarily had the traditional background that leads to an engineering career. But we know they have the intellect, drive, and creativity to be successful engineers. We're going to open the world of engineering to them."
The College of Engineering identifies incoming students from groups that are historically under-represented in engineering and who can best be supported by the three main goals of the program: building academic self-efficacy, building a sense of belonging in the engineering community, and balancing academics, social life, and self. Prior to their arrival on campus, Bucknell invites them to be a part of the ESA program. Students who accept the invitation participate in a summer preorientation program as well as an ongoing program led by the ESA program director. Students thus enter the College of Engineering as a supportive cohort, and are provided with additional academic and professional support. Academic support through ESA is designed to foster academic success and empowerment and reflects research demonstrating the power of positive, community-related activities and instruction. In the upperclass years, ESA's academic programming yields increasingly to professional development and engineering experiences provided by ESA. Throughout the student's Bucknell years, individual coaching, modeling, and mentorships both within the college and through ESA's Advisory Committee members help the students find that sense of belonging and balance that lead to persistence and higher levels of success.
What truly makes this program unique is the close interaction between our students and our Alumni Advisory Committee. Co-chaired by George Pierson '84 and the Dean of Engineering, the Advisory Committee serves to mentor the ESA students, to assist in fund raising for the program, and to help provide professional development opportunities for the students as they progress through the engineering programs. Advisory Committee mentors frequently share meals with our students, invite our students to tour their places of work, recruit interns from among our students, and keep in touch electronically with our students. Advisory Committee members then benefit from having invested in building relationships with well-prepared, diverse graduates ready to take the engineering world by storm.