Endowment to fund Summer Engineering Workshops

Each summer, a door of opportunity opens for 6th, 7th, and 8th grade minority students, many of whom have never been outside their hometowns or visited a college campus.

The students come to Purdue for a weeklong Summer Engineering Workshop hosted by the Minority Engineering Program. Living on campus, these students, who have been recommended by a school counselor, math, or science teacher, learn about engineering careers and can envision themselves pursuing higher education and interesting jobs.

Workshop participants tour campus and engineering laboratories, spend time with engineering students and professionals, and take part in hands-on engineering activities. The idea is to inspire; to teach life skills, like interviewing, test taking and time management; and to encourage students to take college-prep courses.

The workshops, first offered to Indiana students in 1976, were developed by Marion Williamson Blalock, longtime director of the Minority Engineering Program. Over the years, more than 3,000 middle school students have participated, representing cities throughout the United States and Puerto Rico.

“I always talked about engineering as it related to their day-to-day lives,” Blalock says. “‘You can actually do this,’ I’d say. ‘You can have the satisfaction that comes from solving problems.’ And I’d bring engineers their color from companies so they could see what can be achieved. And I’d tell the students, ‘It is happening.’”

Identifying potential engineering students and motivating them to continue their education is the focus of the workshops.

To honor Blalock at her retirement from Purdue in fall 2008, the Marion Williamson Blalock Endowment was established to provide continuing funding for the Summer Engineering Workshops. 

The goal is to raise $15 million in six years for the endowment so minority middle school students from diverse economic and cultural backgrounds will learn about engineering’s opportunities and about Purdue University.

“The Marion Williamson Blalock Endowment is but a small tribute to the legacy she has established at Purdue,” says Virginia Gleghorn, Minority Engineering Program director. “This endowment will be used to continue the summer workshops, encourage strong alumni relations, and expose students who otherwise might not consider college to take advantage of the exciting opportunities at Purdue.”