CURENT ERC Earns an “A” for Excellence in Advancing Diversity

Achievement date: 
2016
Outcome/accomplishment: 

Faculty at the Engineering Research Center (ERC) for Ultra-wide-area Resilient Electric Energy Transmission Network (CURENT), an NSF-funded center headquartered at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville (UTK), are seeing significant results from their efforts to increase the number of domestic graduate and undergraduate students from groups historically underrepresented in the fields of electric power and energy systems engineering. The increases they have achieved exceed national averages: racial minorities make up about 23% of CURENT’s undergraduate students; women make up about 30%; and the number of domestic students has increased by almost 25%. 

Impact/benefits: 

The numbers CURENT has achieved reflect significant improvement in bringing a diverse pool of talent to power science and engineering. Including talented people from all walks of life is essential to scientific and engineering excellence and achievement. Different experiences and perspectives are integral to group problem-solving that is at the heart of technological advancement in today’s world. CURENT is committed to promoting diversity within all science, math, technology, and engineering fields. From kindergarten through graduate school, they strive to offer programs and opportunities that will both inspire learning and increase the motivation for students and educators. Diversity is emphasized in all UTK programs. CURENT’s recruitment strategies include activities such as the CURENT open house and an increased emphasis on personal contacts and peer recruitment. The Center also works with UTK’s College of Engineering Diversity Programs, Tennessee Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (TLSAMP) at Tennessee State University, the National Society of Black Engineers, and additional groups to facilitate the most effective and accessible programs.

Explanation/Background: 

The goals of CURENT’s diversity efforts are to: promote, increase, and maintain the diversity of the Center's leadership, faculty, and students to levels above the national average for engineering programs; increase enrollment of domestic graduate students; and increase the enrollment and diversity of undergraduate students. You can’t start too soon! Among the other campus programs, ERC-RMB provides project content to area schools, including the Middle School Introduction to Engineering Systems, Introduction of Sophomores to Engineering Principles, and High School Introduction to Engineering Systems.

A recent Open House entices interested students to learn more with this announcement: “Interested in undergraduate research or obtaining graduate school funding? Come and meet the faculty and students of CURENT as they discuss graduate school, research opportunities, and show their labs.” An additional lure: pizza included!