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Introducing ‘IHAWKe’: A Unifying Organization for Students in Engineering’s Diversity & Women’s Program

Monday, October 09, 2017

LAWRENCE — Diversity programs at the University of Kansas School of Engineering are being reimagined and rebranded with a new name: IHAWKe, which stands for Indigenous, Hispanic, African-American and Women KU engineers.

The rebranding takes place under the leadership of Andrew Williams, the school’s new associate dean for diversity, equity & inclusion. He said the new name reflects what he hopes will be renewed collaboration among IHAWKe’s constituent groups, including the American Indian Science & Engineering Society, the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, the National Society of Black Engineers and the Society of Women Engineers.

"We want to brand it something that would appeal to them — something that would also capture the fact that there's a lot of similarities in what the organizations are for, but also to allow for the distinct student organizations that have existed in diversity and women's programs,” he said.

Where the different groups have similar needs and missions, Williams said, he hopes IHAWKe will provide an umbrella for collaboration — on everything from recruiting members to mentoring students to sponsoring events that help members network and build professional skills.

"Now we're having each of the student leaders of those diversity and women's programs meet together almost every other week, to talk about ideas to do things together and also collaborate on projects,” Williams said. "This allows them to still maintain their distinct identity but also work together."

Matthew McFarlane, a master’s student in architectural engineering who serves as treasurer of KU’s NSBE chapter, said he’s looking forward to the new collaborative efforts. The regular meetings among group leaders, he said, give each group a chance to learn from the ideas and experiences of the other groups at the table — exactly, he said, how diversity should work in professional settings.

“We’ve worked collaboratively, but not very collaboratively outside of diversity-specific events,” McFarlane said. “Instead of a bunch of different groups trying to do events or a mentoring program, it helps the overall organization grow together.”

IHAWKe is the latest iteration of diversity efforts in the School of Engineering. In 1971, the school established the Student Council for Recruiting Motivating and Educating Black Engineers, SCoRMEBE. Over the years, those efforts grew to include other minority student organizations under the Office of Diversity and Women’s Programs, which was run by Florence Boldridge from 1983 until her retirement last spring.

Williams hopes to move those efforts forward, which also includes faculty diversity and K-12 outreach programs.

“What IHAWKe should be,” he said, “is something under the umbrella of the Diversity & Women’s Programs that lets the student know that they can be part of changing the world, connecting with others and conquering their classes.”

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