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Update from the Chief Diversity Officer

Donnie PerkinsDonnie Perkins, Chief Diversity OfficerAs we mark the end of the year and embark upon a new one, I am pleased to provide an update on the exciting transformation that is underway to advance diversity and inclusion in the College of Engineering. Transition and steady progress best describe our journey to date.

I began my tenure as the first Chief Diversity Officer for Diversity, Outreach and Inclusion in the College of Engineering on January 5, 2015. Prior to joining Ohio State, I served as the first Chief Diversity Officer and Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion at University Hospitals in Cleveland, Ohio, and Dean and Director of the Office of Institutional Diversity and Equity at Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts.

The Chief Diversity Officer, reporting directly to the Dean of the College of Engineering, leads college-wide diversity and inclusion initiatives and the college’s Office of Diversity, Outreach and Inclusion. I partner and collaborate with internal and external constituents and stakeholders to advance diversity and inclusion for students, faculty, staff and alumni in the college, the university and the community. I am also developing relationships and partnerships with HBCUs, HSIs, TSIs and WHIs to build pipelines for graduate students, research, and student and faculty exchanges. I partner with administrative and academic leaders to increase the diversity of faculty and staff. I also serve on a number of university-wide committees that work to advance diversity and inclusion across all colleges and administrative units, and promote community engagement. Dean David B. Williams, though the implementation of our college’s strategic plan, has made it very clear that diversity and inclusion are key metrics by which the success of the College Engineering will be judged.

In 2014, the College of Engineering established the Office of Diversity, Outreach and Inclusion (DOI) to bring together K-12 programs, undergraduate recruitment, the Minority Engineering Program, the Women in Engineering Program and the Graduate Recruitment Program. The unit is focused on developing a pipeline of prospective women and diverse students to recruit, enroll and support their educational excellence and career preparation and readiness. The students, as always, are our first priority.

Updates and Transitions

The Minority Engineering Program (MEP), in existence for more than 40 years, is a comprehensive, multi-faceted program assisting the College of Engineering with the identification, recruitment, retention, motivation and graduation of African-American, Hispanic and Native American students. MEP underwent a transition in leadership and staffing in 2015, and we’re excited to build upon the strong foundation of leadership and record of achievement set forth by former Assistant Dean Minnie McGee.

The college would like to take this moment to thank Assistant Dean McGee for her caring, leadership, innovation, drive, and faith in our African-American, Hispanic and Native American students over the course of her 40+ years as MEP’s director. Assistant Dean McGee will be honored during the 2016 Minority Engineering Program Banquet, Celebration and Fundraiser on Saturday, April 30, 2016 at the Hyatt Hotel in Columbus, Ohio. 

We also want to recognize and thank two additional staff members – Felicia Sawyer, former MEP Academic Advisor and Staff Assistant, for her many years of support, commitment and guidance of our MEP students, and Shalonda Makupson-Tilford, former Director of Undergraduate Recruitment, for her steadfast efforts and strong record of accomplishment in the recruitment and enrollment of diverse and female engineers.

The Women in Engineering Program (WiE) has also experienced some staff transitions in 2015. Shawna Fletcher, former Associate Director of WiE, took a leadership position with Texas A&M University, while Holly Longman, Program Manager, recently moved to the University of Washington in Seattle, Washington.

Leadership and staff positions are currently being updated, with searches planned for early 2016. As with MEP, we’re excited by the opportunity to bring in new talent, energy and ideas to build upon previous successes in the creation of an even better program. In the meantime, WiE continues to support women engineering students in and out to the classroom with a living and learning community, mentoring, academic and career exposure workshops, and professional development opportunities. 

In April 2015, Lisa Barclay was promoted to the position of Interim Director of the Office of Diversity, Outreach and Inclusion. The Interim Director’s principal responsibilities include oversight of daily operations of DOI, and administrative oversight for the Minority Engineering and Women in Engineering Programs.

2015 Minority Engineering Program Highlights

  • The 36th Annual Awards Banquet was held on April 10, 2015 in the Ohio Union with over 250 students, family, staff and alumni in attendance. Our keynote speaker was Dr. Colette Pierce Burnette, new President of Huston-Tillotson University, in Austin, Texas. The MEP Alumni Advisory Board also recognized Assistant Dean Minnie M. McGee for her 40+ years of service and excellence.
  • MEP welcomed 25 students to the 2015 PREFACE Program. All students completed the program with high marks.
  • MEP hosted both the STEM Leadership Camp (Northland HS, Beechcroft and the Central Ohio NSBE Junior Group) and Camp Engineer for middle school students in July.
  • MEP launched a new initiative, a one credit-hour first-year seminar class to increase engagement with PREFACE students following the summer program.
  • Twenty-seven National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) members attended the national conference in March 2015 in Anaheim, California.
  • MEP and NSBE collaborated to host the Diversity Company Social and Career Fair in October with 34 companies. Over 285 students took advantage of the early opportunity to network with prospective employers.
  • Twenty-six Society of Hispanic Engineers (SHPE) members attended the national conference in Baltimore, Maryland in November 2015.
  • MEP offered academic support/tutoring through a new collaboration with NSBE and SHPE called ACE (Academic Coaching in Engineering). The program has increased participation by 30 percent over last year.
  • MEP supported the “NSBE Shadow Day Program” in October. Our engineering students hosted 35 high school sophomores, juniors and seniors for a daylong on-campus visit experience.
  • MEP launched the Russell LEAD Scholarships (Leadership in Engineering Advancing Diversity). Four to six book scholarships are offered to students that have been actively engaged in MEP and student organization programs during autumn semester.
  • The Chervil-Sterling Scholarship will also be awarded to two or three juniors and non-graduating seniors who have mentored first- and second-year students.
  • MEP also sponsored a two-day study marathon in preparation for finals week; more than 75 students from NSBE, SHPE, Lambda Psi and ODI participated.
  • Recruitment for the PREFACE class of 2016 is underway and the application goes live January 11, 2016.

A special thanks this year to Courtney Tolber-Sutton (STEM Leadership) and Felicia Sawyer (Camp ENGR) and Edwin Lee, along with our student support (Kevin Chenault, Anila Wallace, Katie David, Daniel Bond, Paloma Cooper, Alex Pires and Wilson Flores). 

External Review of College of Engineering Progress Advancing Diversity and Inclusion

The College of Engineering, under the leadership of Donnie Perkins, conducted an external review and assessment of its progress advancing diversity and inclusion throughout the college. Six College of Engineering academic and program leaders from the University of California Irvine, Pennsylvania State University, University of Maryland, Northeastern University and The Ohio State University convened October 20-22, 2015. Over 85 college leaders, faculty, students, staff, alumni and partners (including MEP alumni) participated in frank and open discussions regarding the college’s success, challenges, threats and opportunities regarding diversity and inclusion. 

MEP received a strong support from participants and the review team, including several recommendations to strengthen the program structure and its services to students.

The External Review Team provided strategic recommendations for advancing diversity and inclusion in four areas: College Leadership and Engagement; Diversity Planning and Implementation; Access and Equity; and Climate and Inclusion. The recommendations will form the foundation of a new college-wide strategic plan to advance diversity and inclusion, to be developed early next year. 

Promotions and New Hires within the Office of Diversity, Outreach and Inclusion

  • Dr. La’Tonia Stiner Jones promoted to Assistant Dean for Graduate Education and Recruitment – September 2015
  • Jill Mobley promoted to Office Manager – April 2015
  • Jenn Rob hired as Director of Undergraduate Recruitment – October 2015
  • Rocquel Weller hired as Program Coordinator for WiE – August 2015

2016 Focus

  • Complete the recruitment and hire of leadership, professional and support staff for MEP, WiE and other DOI programs.
  • Develop and implement a new College of Engineering Strategic Plan for Advancing Diversity and Inclusion.
  • Increase recruitment of African American, Hispanic, Native Americans, and Women students.
  • Increase the number and diversity of faculty, administrators and staff.
  • Evaluate and enhance the effectiveness of services provided by DOI units (K-12 programs, undergraduate recruitment, MEP, WiE and graduate recruitment).
  • Increase college leadership and faculty engagement, collaboration and partnership with DOI units and initiatives.
  • Develop and implement a college Supplier Diversity Program.

Call to Action

None of our efforts are possible without your continued support. As the Office of Diversity Outreach and Inclusion continues to grow in scope and prominence within the college, your input and contributions are important now more than ever. Ways you can help:

  1. Continue to mentor and support MEP and our students
  2. Support the MEP Alumni Board Fund Raising Campaign
  3. Save the date, register and attend:

    2016 MEP Banquet and Extravaganza

    Friday, April 29, 2016: MEP Alumni Reception
    Saturday, April 30, 2016 : Banquet and Extravaganza
    Location: The Hyatt Hotel, Columbus, Ohio

    Registration details are available online at 

Feel free to email your questions and recommendations to me at

Donnie Perkins
Chief Diversity Officer