Alcoa Awards Grant to Fund Diversity Programs at Clemson

November 13, 2008

CLEMSON, SC – November 13, 2008 – Alcoa Inc. has awarded Clemson University a two-year $80,000 grant to support programs for recruiting and retaining under-represented students in science, math and engineering majors.

The grant will help fund retention programs for rising college freshmen in Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) and Programs for Educational Enrichment and Retention (PEER). The grant also will create textbook scholarships for juniors and seniors in the programs.

The grant is provided by the Alcoa Campus Partnership Program, a project that supports colleges and universities to recruit engineering and science graduates to work at Alcoa.

“We are very excited about our grant to Clemson University,” said Lewis Creel, ambassador for Clemson University in the Alcoa Campus Partnership Program. “We have been working with the Cooperative Education Program for over 20 years and have employed several graduates as a result of that process. We are delighted to be a part of this process and look forward to helping Clemson University attract and educate our diverse talent group for the future.”

Neil Burton, associate director of Clemson’s Cooperative Education Program, echoed Creel’s thoughts.

“Alcoa and Clemson’s Cooperative Education Program have a great relationship, and Lewis Creel approached us to see what else Alcoa could do in recognition of this history,” said Burton. “We’re looking forward to continuing to work with PEER and WISE in the future and doing everything we can to help these students succeed.”

Part of the grant will support The WISE Experience (WE), a summer orientation program for incoming freshmen women majoring in science, math and engineering. The weeklong program lets them experience college life, including residence halls, dining halls and classes and to bond with each other and meet future professors.  

The WISE Experience began in 2001 and retained 90 percent of its initial group, according to WISE program director Serita Acker.

“In most high schools, men and women are usually equally divided in classrooms, so it can be a real shocker to come and see very few women students when you move into higher-level engineering and science classes,” Acker said. “I feel that the program lets incoming females know that the College of Engineering and Science at Clemson welcomes them and will do everything to see that they have the best experiences. Many studies have shown that the No. 1 reason females drop out of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields is due to feeling isolated. WE gives participants an instant peer group in traditional male-dominated fields of study.”

Part of the grant also will support PEER’s Sneak Preview program for minority high school seniors. Fifty African-American, Hispanic and Latino students from South Carolina are selected to attend a three-day visit to Clemson each fall. Clemson minority students in science, math and engineering majors serve as hosts for the visitors and show them their residence halls, dining halls and classrooms. A second Sneak Preview program is hosted in the spring for accepted students.

As many as 80 percent of high school students in a Sneak Preview group ultimately will decide to enroll at Clemson, according to Susan Lasser, director of the PEER program.

“When we survey students at the end of the Sneak Preview, most students say the best part was meeting other students and ‘hanging out with my host,’” said Lasser. “It sends a powerful message that African-American students can thrive on this campus.”

The grant also provides $10,000 annually to create $1,000 textbook scholarships for outstanding WISE and PEER juniors and seniors. The awards will be given in May 2009 and May 2010.

Alcoa Inc.
Alcoa Inc. is an aluminum manufacturing company involved in aerospace, industrial, automotive, construction and engineering industries. Alcoa Inc. was founded in 1894 under the name Pittsburgh Reduction Co. and today has more than 350 locations in 34 countries.