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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — The University of Tennessee-Knoxville has an above-average portion of female and black engineering students and is working to increase it even more, officials in the college of engineering said Wednesday.

Dr. Fred Gilliam, associate dean of engineering, said UT-Knoxville is participating in a national study to help colleges attract and keep more female and black engineering students.

Gilliam said 18.7 percent of UT-Knoxville’s 1,897 undergraduate engineering students in fall 1997 were female, compared to 16 percent nationally.

The portion of UT-Knoxville African-American engineering undergraduates was 10.2 percent, compared to the national average of 6.9 percent, according to the Engineering Workforce Commission.

UT-Knoxville established a Minority Engineering Program in 1972, and in recent years has been among the nation’s top 25 schools in the annual number of African-American engineering graduates.

More than 700 UT-Knoxville engineering students recently were questioned in a nationwide study of 30,000 students at 29 universities, Gilliam said. Results could identify problems and solutions to improve enrollment and retention rates for African Americans and women in engineering, which lag behind white males, he said.

“We are delighted to participate in this survey and continue our efforts to do all that we can do to create a warm, welcome climate for all students, and women and African-American students in particular,” Gilliam said.

The national study is sponsored by the Women in Engineering Programs & Advocates Network (WEPAN) and funded by the Engineering Information Foundation in New York.   Jackson said the results could point out the benefits of establishing a program to encourage female engineering students at UT-Knoxville.

“We may think we are doing a good job because our students are not complaining, but we always want to do better,” Jackson said. “This survey will give us hard data to objectively assess how we really are doing in attracting and retaining female and African-American students.”

Contact: Dr. Fred Gilliam (423-974-2454) or Dr. Denise Jackson (423-974-5578)