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GE Renews Research Grants to Women, Minorities

By Rachel Yudovich

The General Electric Foundation has recently renewed a three-year, $330,000 grant to the School of Engineering to encourage women and underrepresented minorities to pursue careers in academia.

Funds are distributed between qualified students at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, as well as to the GE Foundation Faculty for the Future program. On the undergraduate level, 50 percent of the money will be allocated for the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program each year.

On the graduate level, there will be two main categories of allocation. About one-third of the total grant is being allocated to fund one or more outstanding women or underrepresented minority graduate students interested in pursuing an academic career. The grant is supposed to supplement, not replace other forms of graduate student support. A small part of the GE grant will fund loans to outstanding students in the case that other more meaningful support cannot be found.

The final portion of the grant will be used to fund what the GE foundation calls Junior Faculty Coupons.

GE defines underrepresented minorities as Mexican-Americans, Puerto Ricans, African-Americans, and Native Americans.

UROP support for minorities

Money will be allocated for UROPs with the thought that if students become involved with research at an early stage, they may be encouraged to go on to graduate school and become professors, according to the grant proposal.

The UROP office is not in the practice of recruiting students. Women and underrepresented minorities are not singled out for possible positions, said UROP Coordinator Debbie H. Shoap.

Instead, students are simply encouraged to approach faculty supervisors to discuss possible projects. Money from the GE grant will be specifically allocated to underrepresented minorities, and to a lesser extent, to women, Shoap said.

These funds will be publicized to the proper audience through the UROP Office itself and possibly in the Office of Minority Education newsletter. To receive funds from the GE grant, no special application is required.

Junior Faculty Coupons

In only three years, the GE Foundation's Faculty for the Future program has shown promise in increasing the number of women and underrepresented minorities in graduate school who wish to pursue academic careers, according to the grant's proposal.

Since July 1, the grant has been supporting two extensions of the Faculty for the Future Program - GE fellowships and the new Junior Faculty Coupons program, according to Associate Dean of the School of Engineering John B. Vander Sande in a letter to the engineering faculty.

Faculty members are encouraged to nominate one or more students for the GE fellowships, Vander Sande wrote in his letter.

The Junior Faculty Coupon program awards $15,000 to an underrepresented minority or woman student as he or she embarks on an academic career. Money will be awarded when the recipient of the award is appointed to the faculty of a U.S. college or university, and these funds are to be used for start up costs. Engineering faculty members will also nominate students for the coupon program.

MIT's school of engineering currently has 25 women on its faculty, out of a total of 355 faculty members. At this time there are no other major schools with a significantly higher percentage of women faculty.

There are nine underrepresented minority faculty members.

In the 1993-94 school year, 15 offers for faculty positions were made: 10 to white or Asian males, two to black males, two to white females, and one to a Puerto Rican male.