President Obama cites Cornell's Diversity Programs in Engineering with mentoring award

President Barack Obama cited Cornell's Diversity Programs in Engineering among the four individuals and four other organizations to receive the 2011 Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring. The announcement was made Nov. 15.

The mentors will receive their awards at a White House ceremony later this year. The award recipients will receive $25,000 from the National Science Foundation to advance their mentoring efforts.

"Through their commitment to education and innovation, these individuals and organizations are playing a crucial role in the development of our 21st century workforce. Our nation owes them a debt of gratitude for helping ensure that America remains the global leader in science and engineering for years to come," said Obama.

Upon hearing the White House announcement, Lance Collins, dean of the College of Engineering, said: "Diversity Programs in Engineering has been a leader on the campus at all levels since its inception in 2004. I am delighted to hear that we have been selected as among the best in the nation. It's an incredible honor.

"What the work Diversity Programs in Engineering is doing to build and sustain the pipeline of outstanding women and underrepresented minority students will impact our profession for decades to come. I could not be more pleased with their success," he said.

Rick Allmendinger, associate dean for diversity, faculty development and mentoring for the College of Engineering, said: "Here at Cornell, we see diversity as an opportunity, not an obligation. We have to leverage an increasingly diverse pipeline of students if the university -- and the country -- is to remain competitive, and as engineers we firmly believe that a diverse population leads to better, more creative solutions to the problems we face. If we are successful at building diversity, it will pay dividends for Cornell."

The Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring recognizes the crucial role that mentoring plays in the academic and personal development of students studying science and engineering -- particularly those who belong to underrepresented groups in these fields. By offering their expertise and encouragement, mentors help prepare the next generation of scientists and engineers.

Sara Xayarath Hernández, director of Diversity Programs in Engineering, explains the importance of mentoring. "For science, technology, engineering and mathematics, engaging students from a diversity of backgrounds is a national imperative. At Cornell, we take that imperative seriously, and mentoring is an integral component of the solution."

Reinforcing diversity within the College of Engineering is a central priority at the undergraduate, graduate and faculty levels. The school strives to ensure that students of color, women and others historically underrepresented in engineering have the opportunity to realize their aspirations while also contributing their ideas, skills and talent.

Through various initiatives, Diversity Programs in Engineering is providing students with access to tiers of role models and mentors. High school students participating in engineering programs gain access to undergraduates and graduate student role models -- a critical element to envisioning themselves as Cornell engineers. Said Hernandez: "Role models for our undergraduate and graduate students include other, more advanced students as well as faculty. Through our mentoring and other programs, we are helping our engineering students to define and fulfill their aspirations as well as to achieve success at Cornell and beyond."

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Blaine Friedlander