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School of Engineering project engages young women in the field

The “Recruitment and Retention of Women in Engineering” project is partly funded by a grant from the Engineering Information Foundation in New York.

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LAU engineering assistant professor Dr. Grace Abou Jaoude Estephan is coordinating the implementation of the "Recruitment and Retention of Women in Engineering" project.

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Co-funded by LAU and the Engineering Information Foundation in New York, the project aims to engage more middle and high school girls in the field of engineering.

The Engineering Information Foundation in New York has given LAU a $15,000 grant to implement the “Recruitment and Retention of Women in Engineering” project that aims to engage more middle and high school girls in the field — specifically in civil engineering.

The project, which is also funded by an additional $10,000 by LAU, aims to understand the existing knowledge and attitudes of young girls and their parents toward engineering. The findings will be used to prepare an outreach program to create more awareness, ultimately increasing and widening the scope of enrollment at the school.

While the EiF grant approval was received late last year, the first phase of research — surveys of high school girls and their perceptions of the study of engineering — will be completed in late April. Surveys were given to over 2,000 girls from six local schools.

Funding was received thanks to the efforts of LAU engineering assistant professor Dr. Grace Abou Jaoude Estephan, who is coordinating the project’s implementation. She explains that her purpose is to get the girls to “understand that a civil engineer is not just a builder.” She adds, “There are different areas within civil engineering and I want to make sure that they know.”

Participating girls will attend a one-week event at the Byblos campus — planned for May — that aims to spark their imaginations and build their confidence by introducing them to famous female engineers, and to inform them about the jobs of civil engineers, enabling them to discover the benefits of a career in engineering.

“We will give them more information on the areas of civil engineering, show them that the involvement of women is at all levels in all areas. We have several examples of successful engineers here and abroad,” says Abou Jaoude Estephan.

A website for girls and their parents as well as a student club at LAU for female peer mentoring are also being planned. The project is expected to end next year.

Abou Jaoude Estephan says that similar studies in the region conclude that there is a “trend not to go [into engineering] because it’s stereotypically not a women’s field.”

Dr. George Nasr, dean of the School of Engineering, says: “Above all, I believe we should not limit male or female choices when it comes to pursuing education and careers. That’s why it’s important for us to encourage this program.”

He emphasizes the importance of diversity within the school, adding, “A career in engineering provides unparalleled flexibility when compared with other professions … [It] is also one of the most respected professions in the world and a degree in engineering reflects a well-educated individual, not to mention that it can be well-paid and rewarding,” he explains.

Abou Jaoude Estephan, who graduated from Purdue University in Indiana, USA, with a Ph.D. in geotechnical engineering in 2006, joined LAU the following year. She says, “It’s not specifically math or science that we need [to work in engineering]; we need the logic too. You have to love doing it, not just study for it.”


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