ACC Grant to Create Pathway for Female Engineers

(Jan. 21, 2021) – Alamance Community College will use a $99,600 National Science Foundation (NSF) grant to create a partnership and pipeline to steer young girls toward the engineering career field.

Women in a Network of Discovery (WIND) is the future educational pathway aimed at increasing the number of women, especially minority and low-income females, earning associate and bachelor’s engineering degrees.

Nationally women earn only 20.9% of Bachelor Degrees in Engineering, according to a 2019 report by the National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics. Additionally, men earned six times as many Associate Degrees in Engineering from community colleges.

Because community colleges provide an affordable entry into college, ACC’s leadership role in the WIND partnership will create a plan for engineering educational pathways from third grade to college degree. The plan is ambitious, bringing together a coalition of the Alamance-Burlington School System (ABSS), NC State University, and Elon University.

“We are excited to partner with our local school systems and universities to provide pathways for girls into engineering fields,” said Dr. Connie Wolfe, ACC Executive Vice President and leader of the WIND partnership. “ACC’s vision is to provide access to higher education for all, including those who are under-represented in certain professions. Women have so much to contribute in science and math-related fields, and we need to do all we can to spark their interest in, and help them prepare for, high-paying jobs in engineering and related professions.”

WIND is based on ACC’s successful Medical Bridge: Minority Males in Medicine program, an initiative that supports local minority boys in 6-12th grades in pursuing STEM careers as medical professionals, scientists, and academics.

Like Medical Bridge, the WIND initiative will be characterized by experiential learning, makerspace involvement, summer camps, mentoring, family education, year-round activities on Saturdays, peer networks, paid internships, and other support activities.

In addition to the partnership among ACC, NC State, Elon University, and ABSS, the core planning team headed by Wolfe will create an advising committee to include representatives of engineering companies, local government, and engineering societies, most notably the Society of Women Engineers and Women in Engineering.

The goal is to ensure the next-generation technical workforce is diverse and has the needed skills and talent for the 21st century.