In what may be a unique collaboration between an engineering degree program, and an e-books publisher, the James Madison University (JMU) Engineering Department and IEEE-USA Publishing are teaming up to inspire pre-college and college students-- especially women and underrepresented minorities--to pursue engineering as a career.
A pilot program getting underway this fall will put a free compilation of the first four volumes of the award-winning IEEE-USA Women in Engineering E-Books in the hands of 166 first-year JMU engineering students on the Harrisonburg, Virginia, campus. In addition, the compilation will be presented throughout the 2015-2016 school year to middle- and high-school students, their parents, teachers, guidance counselors, and at home-school networks at academic fairs, outreach events and educator meetings throughout the Shenandoah Valley.
Except for the first volume, an overview of women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) occupations, each book is a first-hand account of how a notable contemporary woman engineer built her career. Each author discusses the challenges and opportunities she dealt with in obtaining her education and advancing professionally.
Nita Patel, IEEE Women in Engineering International Chair, wrote the first volume in the series. Her book, Women in Engineering – Book 1: Inspire and Close the Gender Gap, explores why women are underrepresented in STEM careers and recommends solutions.
The authors of the other books in the compilation are: Maria Vlachopoulou, a data analyst/program manager at Microsoft Corporation in Redmond, Wash., who wrote Women in Engineering – Book 2: Passion, Perseverance and Making a Difference; Sherry Gillespie, Ph.D., a Washington, D.C. technology management consultant and former executive with IBM and Motorola, who wrote Women in Engineering – Book 3: Passions Can Sustain You: A Personal Career History; and Jacquelyn Nagel, Ph.D., an assistant professor of engineering at JMU, who authored Women in Engineering – Book 4: Follow Your Curiosities: Finding Success through Learning.
In fact, it was Nagel who first suggested a partnership between JMU’s Engineering Department and IEEE-USA Publishing. Describing her own e-book as “a way to help others to learn from my mistakes, hardships and triumphs,” she was a guest speaker earlier this year at an outreach day for high school girls sponsored by the local chapter of the Society of Women Engineers.
“I discussed my story and the impact of different experiences on my life,” she recalls, “and because a 20-minute talk wasn’t long enough, I gave the students who attended a copy of my e-book.” Afterward, Nagel pondered how she could make a greater impact in encouraging more young women toward STEM careers. “I realized it comes down to inspiring students--as well as the parents, teachers and guidance counselors who influence them,” she says.
With the support of Kurt Paterson, JMU Engineering Department Head, Nagel approached Georgia Stelluto, IEEE-USA Publishing Manager and IEEE-USA E-BOOKS Manager and Editor, about printing her e-book.
“It was clear we could do more to help JMU, and at the same time extend the reach of our core message about the IEEE-USA Women in Engineering series, that talented women can and should pursue STEM educations and careers,” says Stelluto. “After meeting in person with both Jacquelyn and Kurt, and subsequent discussions with the IEEE-USA senior staff, the IEEE-USA E-BOOKS Editorial Board, and the IEEE-USA Communications Committee, we decided to provide printed copies of the first four volumes in the series, within a first compilation volume, that included Jacquelyn’s.”
Depending on the event, the compilation is being distributed either as a soft-cover, printed book, or an online PDF. For example, print versions will be disseminated at academic fairs and open houses, while access to online PDFs will be provided at workshops and in engineering courses.
In return for supplying the free e-book compilation, IEEE-USA Publishing will receive extensive JMU tracking metrics, including Engineering Department recruitment and retention of engineering students, the impact of the IEEE-USA WIE e-book compilation on students’ motivations and career decision-making, and the effects on student membership in professional societies.
Once this pilot partnership with James Madison University has proved itself, the approach will be presented to a broad audience of senior-level educators—for example, at the annual conference of the American Society of Engineering Education--and other engineering institutions will be encouraged to adopt this model.
“The underlying concept behind the Women in Engineering E-Book series is that the professionals who are contributing to it are outstanding role models to whom girls and young women can easily relate,” says Gerard (Gus) Gaynor, Chair of the IEEE-USA Communications Committee and IEEE-USA E-BOOKS Editorial Board.
JMU’s Kurt Paterson goes a step further, describing the series as “a purposeful collection of life narratives.” He adds, “It took vision and wisdom to start collecting these stories, because you can’t ask any one individual what it’s like to be an engineer. These e-books move the conversation from the engineering profession to the humanness of engineers.”
The engineering degree program at James Madison University is enjoying significant growth--28 percent for August 2015--since accepting its inaugural freshman class in 2008. The result of several years of extensive research and planning, including recommendations from the National Academy of Engineering, the school offers a single, interdisciplinary engineering bachelor’s degree. It meets ABET accreditation standards, and prepares graduates for the Fundamentals of Engineering examination; while also providing a solid liberal arts education with a strong science, technology, engineering, math and business curriculum.
The Women in Engineering Compilation, Volume 1, Books 1 – 4, is available at a special price of $25 for IEEE members and $35 for non-members at http://shop.ieeeusa.org/. Regular prices for each of the four books are $7.99 and $9.99, respectively.
During 2015, four more e-books in the series have been published: Women in Engineering – Book 5: Finding Self and Growth, by Broadcom integrated circuits packaging engineer Melissa Lau; Women in Engineering – Book 6: Your Career, My Career, by consultant Leslie Martinich; Women in Engineering – Book 7: Having It All, by Silicon Valley consultant Tanya Candia; and Women in Engineering – Book 8, The Art of Self-Empowerment: Becoming Your Own Best Friend, by Cisco Quality Team member Punam Nagpal. Each of these volumes is $7.99 for IEEE members and $9.99 for non-members, and is available at http://shop.ieeeusa.org/.
Four more volumes are scheduled for publication in 2016.
----------------------Helen Horwitz is an award-winning freelance writer who lives in Albuquerque, N.M. She was with IEEE from 1991 through 2011, the first nine as Staff Director, IEEE Corporate Communications.