Alcoa grant to assist diversity and international programs

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Alem Asres

Alem  Asres
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In an effort to boost engineering opportunities for students from minority groups and increase diversity and global awareness on the engineering campus, the Alcoa Foundation and Alcoa Mill Products have awarded the College of Engineering a $30,000 grant. The college’s Diversity Affairs and Engineering Student Services offices will divide the grant, which will fund diversity outreach and the international student exchange program.

A portion of the grant will fund such diversity programs as the PREP Summer Science Academy, a four-week program sponsored by Diversity Affairs, Rufus King High School, Milwaukee, and others; and the seven-week Engineering Summer Program (ESP) offered tuition-free by Diversity Affairs. Both pre-college programs give high-school women and students of color the opportunity to explore engineering and the sciences and prepare for college life.

Targeting pre-college students gives them an edge, says Alem Asres, assistant dean of diversity affairs. “Recruiting underrepresented populations and helping them achieve their academic, career and personal goals is a challenge that faces university educators today,” says Asres. “With its continued commitment to diversity, Alcoa helps us reach out to those students and give them the skills and tools they need to succeed here and after they graduate.”

Alcoa is committed to making education accessible to people of all races, which benefits not only students, but industry as well, says Joel Funk, Alcoa’s Madison campus ambassador. “Our success is dependent on our abilities to provide a quality education and workforce with racial and ethnic diversity,” he says.

The grant also will help expand the college’s international exchange program to include students from the University of Cape Town (UCT), South Africa. Currently the college trades students with “sister” institutions in Europe, Australia, Chile and Asia, where the cost of living is similar to that in Madison. The Alcoa grant will financially enable a UCT student to participate in an exchange with a UW-Madison engineering student. It will be the college’s first international program with a university where students of color are the majority population, says Marianne Machotka, International Study Abroad program coordinator.

“The new initiative with the University of Cape Town in South Africa will add diversity not only to the college’s international programs, but it will also lead to greater international understanding for UW-Madison students as well as Cape Town students,” says Machotka. “Exchanging students with UCT will diversify our student body, and allow our students to share a tremendous intercultural experience in not only the social and cultural sense, but also in engineering education.”

Alcoa Mill Products and the Alcoa Foundation have presented $305,000 to UW-Madison since 1989.