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Alumni and Friends Making an Impact

Driving Diversity in Engineering

Doug McKeown ’84 remembers how a young engineer at his firm had to always carry engineering drawings, whether needed or not, so that they were not stopped from entering the project site.

“This engineer was Black, and it made me realize the added stress of being a person of color at an already difficult job because of the extra thought and effort required to assimilate into a field where there are very few minorities,” reflected McKeown.

This is one of many experiences in McKeown’s 30-year career which have spurred him to do what he can to encourage students from diverse backgrounds to consider the field of engineering.

“Engineering is all about making life better for people, and I firmly believe that the things we design are going to be better when they have been influenced by broader perspectives and cultural considerations,” said McKeown. “But historically, there has been a very small percentage of engineering graduates who are people of color, making it harder for employers to build and retain a diverse workforce to create the inclusive work environments that are critical to success today.”

Doug and his wife, Casey, hope to help change that with their pledge of $100,000 to establish the Multi-Ethnic Engineers Endowed Scholarship within the School of Engineering’s Multi-Ethnic Engineers Program. In developing this, McKeown spoke with a number of UD engineering alums who have interest in supporting this, and he is excited about this gift as a start that will help to attract more supporters to make a real impact.

Highlighting the program’s critical role in ensuring diversity in engineering, Alison Ekpelu ’18, director of the Multi-Ethnic Engineer Program and a former scholar of the program, noted how MEP is an important resource to help multi-ethnic students build their engineering identity. “It helps them find a community of people who understand what it's like to be a multi-ethnic engineer and reinforces their conviction in their capabilities,” she said. Echoing similar sentiment, Laura Bistrek ’97, executive director of the Diversity in Engineering Center, shared how MEP is a full-circle program that builds engineering identity and self-efficacy for multi-ethnic students.

“Not only are we focused on each individual student’s success but also on the cohort as a whole by having students invest in one another’s success and do outreach to the next generation of multi-ethnic engineers,” said Bistrek. 

The McKeowns feel that, if we don't start convincing all students that engineering is a viable career for them, we won't possibly have enough graduates to fill critical roles. “During dinners when I was growing up, my parents would say ‘What do you want to do in college? You're a smart kid. You're good at math. You ever think of engineering?’” said McKeown. “I don't think every student has that same dinner-table conversation.”

There are plenty of really bright students who would offer immense value to our field who are somehow led to believe that they're not going to be able to be an engineer.

“There are plenty of really bright students who would offer immense value to our field who are somehow led to believe that they're not going to be able to be an engineer. If one of those limitations is the financial means by which they get that degree, my wife and I want to make a dent there,” said McKeown.

The Multi-Ethnic Engineers Program has a nearly 30-year legacy of engaging and empowering students to thrive as emerging engineers at the University of Dayton, making significant contributions to the community. “Donations to scholarships allow us to continue our legacy of engaging and empowering students to pursue their dreams of making a difference through engineering,” said Gerica Brown ’08, ’21, assistant dean, Inclusive Excellence Strategic Initiatives at the School of Engineering.

McKeown’s passion for MEP fits with UD’s pursuit of and commitment to driving diversity and inclusion on campus. Recently, the University received two national honors for excellence in diversity and inclusion. INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine named UD a Higher Education Excellence in Diversity Award winner for the third time. And the American Talent Initiative named UD a High-Flier for its support of underserved and low-income students. Only 28 schools in the U.S. were chosen by ATI, and UD was the only Ohio school and the only Catholic school that received the honor.

“I'm very pleased with the work they're doing at the University and in the MEP program overall. If we can, through our donation, encourage others to contribute and accelerate the pace at which the University can bring multi-ethnic students into engineering and keep them in engineering, that would have a tremendous impact on the students coming behind them. They could see that this is a field they can get into and that there are rewarding engineering jobs accessible to them!”


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