A Swanson School of Engineering alumnus and his wife have made a major commitment to the school—which could total more than $10 million when realized—to help support generations of minority students and contribute to a stronger and more diverse workforce, University of Pittsburgh Chancellor Patrick Gallagher announced today.
“I am extremely grateful for this gift, which supports the University of Pittsburgh’s efforts to tackle one of society’s greatest challenges—the inequity of opportunity,” Gallagher said. “Put into action, this commitment will help students from underrepresented groups access a world-class Pitt education and—in doing so—help elevate the entire field of engineering.”
The anonymous donors have made an eight-figure bequest intention to provide financial aid to undergraduate students who are enrolled in the Pitt EXCEL diversity program at the Swanson School, hoping to encourage others to make similar commitments. Specifically, their gift will provide tuition support for underprivileged or underrepresented engineering students who are residents of the United States and in need of financial aid, said U.S. Steel Dean of Engineering James R. Martin II.
“This cornerstone gift allows the Swanson School to develop the workforce of the future by offering high quality educational opportunities to a broader constituency and by developing a platform of learning that extends for an entire lifetime,” Martin said. “The generosity of these donors opens a pipeline for a more socially equitable future of academics and experience that keeps our country at the forefront of innovation and economic prosperity.”
Pitt EXCEL focuses on the recruitment, retention and graduation of academically excellent engineering undergraduates—particularly students from groups that are historically underrepresented in the field.
“Anyone who talks to today’s EXCEL students can see how exceptional these young people will be as engineers and individuals,” said Yvette Wisher, who directs the program. “They, and the hundreds of students who preceded them, are the reason why Pitt EXCEL is a game-changer for so many.”
Accelerating positive change
Since its inception, the program has helped more than 1,500 students earn an engineering degree and become leaders in their communities. Pitt EXCEL also encourages students to give back to others after graduation through mentorship, volunteerism, philanthropy or advocacy.
Martin noted that the gift will accelerate the Swanson School’s ongoing efforts to address the needs of a diverse body of students who represent a transformative demographic shift in the American workforce.
“By 2050, when the U.S. will have a minority-majority population, two-thirds of the American workforce will require a post-secondary education,” he said. “We are already reimagining how we deliver engineering education and research, and generosity such as this will lessen the financial burden that students will face to prepare for that future workforce.”