Four years before its stated 2025 goal to “produce 50,000 diverse engineering graduates annually,” the 50K Coalition’s latest graduation numbers already are at roughly 45,000.
And while the pandemic caused some pauses to the program focused on student retention and development on campus, the 50K Coalition is developing a new goal and has hired a full-time program director to achieve its vision for graduating more Black, Indigenous, people of color and women engineers.
“We have begun to develop a partnership—and it's still a work in progress—with other entities to think about, what does 50K plus look like?" says Karl Reid, Northeastern University's first chief inclusion officer.
Previously, the CEO of National Society of Black Engineers, Reid is one of the 50K Coalition's founding members, which also include leaders from the American Indian Science and Engineering Society, the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers and the Society of Women Engineers.
The answer to that question could include expanding the goal to 100,000 BIPOC and women engineering graduates—across disciplines and industries—by 2026 and adding master's degree and PhD students to its areas of focus.
The group also is working to expand its coalition of colleges, universities, organizations and corporations trying to attract and retain diverse engineering graduates. Currently at around 60, the coalition would like to see its numbers grow to 250 partners in roughly the next four years.
“We get calls and emails regularly from somebody connecting us with a new organization. People want to engage, and they're interested in what we're doing. They see the value in what we're doing,” says Clif Morgan, who joined as program director in February.
The coalition is not just adding partners but also thinking strategically about how those partnerships can maximize their impact on students. To that end, the coalition is creating a series of regional hubs, beginning with the Maryland-Virginia-Washington, D.C., region, to expand what Reid characterizes as linkages between two-year and four-year colleges.
“Many two-year community colleges have articulation agreements that I would characterize as one-to-many: one four-year college to many community colleges in the region,” says Reid.
The coalition wants to “widen the spigot,” he says, so there are “many-to-many connections between two- and four-year colleges in regional hubs.” Next up is a hub in Illinois that will likely include the City College of Chicago system, the University of Illinois and the Illinois Institute of Technology.
“There has to be a bigger shift in the way that we think, in how universities and colleges operate,” says Morgan. “It’s not a matter of just getting students to graduate. It's changing some of that thinking and [asking] how do we support students in different ways to help make them successful and graduate?”
To that end, the 50K Coalition is focusing on an “integrated first-year experience,” in which each participating college or university crafts its own program to support students throughout their first year, when the chances are highest that they may leave an engineering program.
“The goal of this is to ensure that there is a series of programs and engagements with these students to ensure that they are successful, they're starting on the same level playing field, they have the community around them,” says Reid.
The programs are bolstered by the 50K Coalition's own data gathering, analysis and sharing of best practices.
“What we do when we do our orientations and intakes with new partners is walk through those programs, figure out what it is their actual outcomes are, translate, transcribe the language to a common language of the data that we're looking for and collecting, and then help to aggregate all of that information—that’s like the bigger goal,” says Morgan.