Representatives from America’s top engineering corporations mingled with Cornell’s own entertainment impresarios last Saturday evening at Trillium, for the Engineering Student Leadership Council’s (ESLC) Third Annual Diversity Dinner. The dinner is Cornell’s culmination of events in National Engineers Week.
The National Society of Professional Engineers established National Engineers Week in 1951 to promote their work across the country. According to the ESLC, the dinner’s purpose is to bring together students, faculty, staff and corporate supporters of the College of Engineering to celebrate their background and common profession.
Corporate supporters and others in attendance enjoyed multi-cultural cuisine, acts from varied student performance groups and a talk from keynote speaker Robert L. Harris, Jr., vice provost of diversity and faculty development.
Harris noted the evening’s theme, celebrating the growing diversity in the engineering population. He also highlighted the problems that still face the profession of engineering in America, through facts and personal examples.
“The engineering culture within the United States has been in large measure white male dominated, although women and minorities are interested in engineering fields in larger numbers today; they are confronting old attitudes,” Harris said.
He asserted that creating diversity through international students and not by promoting opportunities for American minorities is one growing problem in engineering.
“In some graduate areas, especially in engineering and the physical sciences, there are more international students than United States citizens …. The country has to pay greater attention to groups that are currently underrepresented in these fields because they embody the future talent pool,” he said.
“I suggest that this is an ethical dilemma, although you might not have thought about the problem in those terms,” Harris continued.
Including Harris, attendees found the event a good opportunity to celebrate the engineering profession and the engineering college as well as to learn more about the different interests of its students.
“First of all, there’s a greater need in the country for individuals in math, science and engineering so I think the greater awareness of that need is one of the things I would hope to get out of the presentation,” Harris said.
“I decided to come because I’m an engineering student, first of all, and I hope to learn about some different kinds of groups on campus, get a little taste of different types of foods, and basically for the good entertainment,” Angel Hill ’02 said.
Corporate sponsors agreed with this opinion and wished to show their support for Cornell’s future engineers.
“I think it’s important that we show a support for these types of activities in a lot of ways. One, is the support of diversity within Cornell and Corning, and it’s important for engineering to be an inclusive profession,” said John Heitmann, a director at Corning Inc., one of the program’s corporate sponsors.
“Corning’s about 90 percent technical people so we are engineers, and we recruit here quite actively so it was kind of natural for us to want to participate,” Heitmann continued.
Jiann Chen ’78 volunteered to come to the dinner as a representative from his company, Teradyne, Inc., to enjoy the event and be on the Cornell campus again.
“Our company has always felt it was very important to be involved with including people from college,” Chen said.
Following Harris’ speech, student groups of different racial and ethnic backgrounds performed while appreciating the exposure the dinner gave them.
“We’re a fairly new group … so we just want to get our name out and if anyone who sees us and is interested, we welcome them to come and try out,” Jennifer Lin ’01 said, referring to BASE Productions, a female dance troupe that performed. That group had some technical problems with the music during their presentation.
National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) president and Dinner Chair Rodolfo Cuevas ’01 commented on the troupe’s difficulties at the end of the night. “A night of good food, good entertainment and technical difficulties,” Cuevas joked.
The other groups that performed included On Tap, a female tap-dancing troupe, the Cornell Jugglers, Absolute Zero, a break-dancing group, and Capoeira Angola Palmares.
Capoeria Angola Palmares, a group that performs a 100-year-old traditional dance from Brazil, even included a call and response section in their show, with the audience responding in Portuguese.
Event coordinators were pleased with the evening’s turnout which fell just short of their expectation of 250 students.
“We had an amazing turnout for the banquet this year, approximately 230 students, administrators, faculty, and corporate friends,” said Regina Clewlow ’01, ESLC president and National Engineers Week co-chair.
“We sought to recognize ethnic and cultural diversity by the night’s performances, and all of our groups were recommended by engineers that were involved in them,” she added.
Archived article by Carlos Perkins