sealPurdue News

January 31, 2003

Purdue student leaders to discuss diversity in engineering on Feb. 6

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Student leaders will share their perspectives on cultural diversity on Purdue University's campus during a panel discussion from 5:30-7:30 p.m. Thursday (2/6).

The event, which will be in the Electrical Engineering Building, Room 270, is free and is open to the university community.

A 10-member panel discussion and open forum will recap a one-day diversity retreat for 29 student leaders from different engineering and campus organizations that was held on Jan. 18 in conjunction with Dr. Martin Luther King's birthday.

Linda P.B. Katehi, dean of the Schools of Engineering, will open the discussion in which the participating students will share their experiences and thoughts on diversity in engineering with students, faculty and staff.

The retreat, which was at Camp Tecumseh, was sponsored by the Schools of Engineering. Cargill Inc., the international agricultural marketer, processor and distributor, supported and facilitated the event.

"The objective of the one-day student retreat was to provide training and tools to student leaders to enable them to understand and deal with issues related to diversity early in their career," said Klod Kokini, assistant dean for strategic initiatives and professor of mechanical and biomedical engineering.

The student-oriented retreat is the latest effort on the part of the Schools of Engineering to foster greater diversity on campus. In 1998 the schools began two-day multicultural and gender diversity forums at the suggestion of an alumna working for E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Co., which sponsored the first forum. The forums now serve as part of a long-term commitment to ensure that every dean, department head, and faculty member, as well as key staff members, participate in the gender, multicultural and life-skills workshops, Kokini said.

The goal of these two-day, off-campus forums is to develop awareness and sensitivity to minority and gender issues within the schools, and foster open, honest dialogue between different cultures and genders, he said.

Each program features historical presentations from the perspective of each group represented, as well personal experiences from the individuals participating in the program. About 20-35 people participate in each of the intense workshops, which are directed by trained national facilitators of diverse backgrounds. Minority and women Purdue alumni share their collegiate and professional experiences as well.

So far, more than half of Purdue's 265 engineering faculty have participated in one or both of these programs, which are sponsored by the university and supported in part by industry partners such as DuPont, Daimler Chrysler, Eli Lilly and Co., and Procter & Gamble Co. More than 80 staff members, 123 alumni and seven outside guests of Purdue also have participated.

The forums were started at the request of industry, Kokini said.

"These forums are sponsored by Purdue and supported, in part, by companies that value and receive value from a diverse work force," he said. "These companies recognize they cannot compete and succeed in this global climate unless we accept and celebrate our differences, as well as our commonalties."

Kokini said university teachers, by shaping tomorrow's leaders, are the key to a welcoming and diverse world.

"We would like to be the most diverse engineering school in the country in terms of our undergraduate and graduate student presence, as well as our faculty and staff diversity," Kokini said. "We want to have the most welcoming and productive climate in the country for everyone. We equate diversity with quality."

The next engineering schools' diversity forums are scheduled for March 9-13.

CONTACT: Klod Kokini, (765) 494-5340,

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096;

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