Fairfield University's School of Engineering, the Diocese of Bridgeport, and the Bridgeport Public Schools partner to create pre-engineering academy for high school students with funding from GE Foundation


An innovative partnership involving Fairfield University's School of Engineering, the five Catholic high schools of the Diocese of Bridgeport, and the Bridgeport Public School system, will result in establishing a high school pre-engineering academy on the Fairfield campus this fall.

The academy will integrate the teaching of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) in preparing high school students for science and engineering studies, and so will be called the STEM Academy. The goal is to create a pipeline of young science and engineering talent, an important mission considering that currently fewer American college students choose to study science and engineering in comparison with the needs of the nation. STEM Academy organizers hope the pre-engineering curriculum will spark a love of the sciences, especially among females and minority students, two segments of the population that are underrepresented in engineering.

An initial $400,000 grant from Fairfield-based GE Foundation to the partnership will fund the first year of the academy. A first-year enrollment of fifty students is planned. They will attend intensive Saturday classes and summer classes on Fairfield's campus, facilitated by faculty and staff of the School of Engineering.

E. Vagos Hadjimichael, Ph.D., dean of the School of Engineering, said the project is part of the School's continued efforts to do significant outreach in K-12 schools and community colleges to help inspire the next generation of much needed engineers and scientists. "The STEM Academy plan to serve students in the Catholic and public schools in the Bridgeport area is very much in line with the School's mission."

Students who will be candidates for STEM studies attend Notre Dame High School in Fairfield, St. Joseph High School in Trumbull, Kolbe-Cathedral in Bridgeport, Immaculate High School in Danbury, Trinity Catholic in Stamford;, and Central, Bassick and Harding high schools and Bullard-Havens Technical High School in Bridgeport.

Dr. Margaret A. Dames, superintendent of schools for the Diocese of Bridgeport, said, "The Diocese of Bridgeport is thrilled with the partnership among Fairfield University, the Bridgeport Public Schools and the Diocese. We are capitalizing on all our strengths and the beneficiaries are the students."

Dr. John J. Ramos, Sr., superintendent of Bridgeport Public Schools, said, "This partnership is an essential component to our mission, which is to 'graduate all students college ready and prepared to succeed in life.' This preparation and commitment to our student's education must continue to be enhanced through science, math, engineering and technology, giving Bridgeport students the tools they need to compete in an ever-changing world. We commend the General Electric Foundation and Fairfield University for investing in our students as we work to prepare them to become future leaders."

The University's manufacturing, electrical and computer engineering laboratories will provide an engaging setting for the students to add experiential learning to their classroom instruction. Dr. Hadjimichael emphasized, "For the United States to continue to be a force to be reckoned with in the global economy, we need young people to pursue careers in science and engineering. It is vital that we stay competitive."

The GE funds will help pay for the students' transportation to and from the STEM classes and will cover teacher training and supplies, among other expenses. Kelli Wells, director of U.S. Education for the GE Foundation, the philanthropic organization of the General Electric Company, said, "This is an example of a quality educational program that is ultimately about building a strong and diverse workforce and citizenry."

Four faculty from the School of Engineering, along with fifteen teachers, will attend summer workshops at the University of New Haven, the regional Project Lead the Way (PLW) training center. PLW is a national program that encourages students' interest in engineering, and works to address the shortage of engineers by building partnerships with schools, businesses and industry to provide students with the latest knowledge about science and engineering. Project Lead the Way (PLW) curriculum will serve as the framework for the STEM Academy. Organizers hope to show young students the great opportunities that lie ahead for those who pursue science and engineering as a profession.

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Media Contact: Meg McCaffrey, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2726, mmccaffrey@fairfield.edu

Posted on August 5, 2008

Vol. 41, No. 23