Majority Dartmouth College’s Engineering Graduates Now Women


Dartmouth College is an Ivy League school established in 1769. But it only began accepting female students around the 1970s. After over four decades, Dartmouth’s recent engineering graduates are now mostly women.

Out of the 119 graduates, 64 of them were female (around 54%).

This is the first time that a national research institute had more women graduates than men, especially in a male-dominated field.

The New Hampshire school has been very supportive of their female students pursuing science courses. In 1990, the Women in Science Project, a Dartmouth College program meant to help female students by offering mentorship, was launched by Karen E. Wetterhahn and Carol Muller, who wanted to address the under representation of women in the science, mathematics, and engineering courses.

The project’s mission was to “collaborate in creating a learning environment where women can thrive in science, engineering and mathematics”.

According to the National Science Foundation, there were only 10.2% of women in the field of engineering in 2004. Nine years later, it increased just slightly by 1.5% in 2013.

Even the American Society for Engineering Education revealed data showing that only 19% of women have engineering degrees.

When the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) learned about the Dartmouth engineering recent graduates, Executive Director Norman Fortenberry had this to say,

By thinking creatively about the content, context, and delivery of engineering education, Dartmouth has achieved a milestone. Other engineering colleges must now match this achievement.

Dean Joseph J. Helble of the Thayer School of Engineering said,

We’ve been able to attract more students, and especially women, by letting them use engineering to solve real-world challenges. They quickly learn how their creativity and engineering skills can make a real difference.

The students had a good educational program that helped them hone and shape their skills:

Shinri Kamei and her team created an ergonomic serving tray. They were tasked to find a solution to “the high incidence of injuries and accidents related to awkward serving trays in restaurants”. After a couple of months, two of the members turned their class project into a business, Tray Bien, LLC.

Tatjana Toeldte and her classmates produced a battery-powered wall-mounted nicotine detector.

 Many others have developed various projects and products to solve real-world solutions like a device to filter and transport water for sub-Saharan areas, an exercise-promoting office chair, and a cerebral shunt for treating hydrocephalus.
Women taking engineering in Dartmouth College had been increasing for the past few academic years now. From 2002 – 2006, there were 25% female graduates. In 2007 – 2011, it increased to 28%. And the most recent school year yielded 54% female graduates.

Professor Myron Tribus of Dartmouth College said that being the first national research school to have a female-majority engineering batch to graduate was an encouragement to more women to consider joining the program because it was “consciously focusing on the things that are appealing and intriguing to them”.

One of the undergraduate students in the engineering program, Meredith Gurnee, said, “People told me when I was in high school that engineering is a male-dominated field, but at Dartmouth I haven’t felt out of place at all. It is super exciting to see women pursing this path.

Rob Clark admin staff managing editor

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