Local tech firm supports women in engineering at UIC

Perla Jiménez

Perla Jimenez, UIC student in mechanical and industrial engineering. Photo: Elsa Soto

The Knowles Corporation, an Itasca, Illinois, tech company specializing in acoustic electronics, has committed $100,000 to the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Engineering to support a scholarship program for female engineering students and a summer program for high school students interested in engineering.

The support helps the college address the workforce shortage in STEM fields — science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

“Our mission is to ensure that groups underrepresented in STEM have the opportunity to achieve their highest educational goals and realize both personal and professional success,” says Peter Nelson, dean of the UIC College of Engineering. “Knowles’ generosity will significantly help strengthen the college’s efforts to provide access to the engineering field for women.”

Last spring, Perla Jiménez, a junior in mechanical and industrial engineering, was concerned about paying off her tuition before the fall semester and wasn’t sure she would be able to return. The worry was affecting her ability to focus on her studies.

“The Knowles scholarship took that massive weight off my shoulders,” Jiménez said. “Because of it, I’m here, one step closer to where I want to be. Sponsors like Knowles want to see you succeed, and they want to be the ones to help you do it.”

Women are underrepresented in all STEM fields, including engineering. They are three times less likely to pursue a career in engineering than their male counterparts.

As a technology pioneer, Knowles regards STEM disciplines as being “at the heart of our business and an integral part of the future of communication technology,” says Jeffrey Niew, Knowles president and CEO.

“The importance of the STEM disciplines to our business and the growth of our economy is ever-growing,” he said. “Our collaboration with the UIC College of Engineering is a natural way for us to support the development of young women and the skills needed to have a rewarding career.”

The planned UIC Women in Engineering Summer Program, to launch in 2015, will be a multi-week intensive summer program designed to expose junior and senior level high school students with strong science and math skills to various fields in engineering. Courses will focus on engineering concepts, robotics, and spatial competencies.

The Knowles donation will also support scholarships for high-achieving incoming female freshman engineering students as part of a UIC women in engineering scholarship program. In addition to the new-student scholarships, each year five members of the Society of Women in Engineering will receive a one-time scholarship of $2,000.

Knowles and the college are also exploring ways for Knowles’ engineers to help shape a curriculum and present engineering topics to the Summer Program students. Niew, who is an alumnus and a member of the college’s advisory board, has visited the campus to meet with and mentor engineering students.

Knowles is a market leader and global supplier of advanced micro-acoustic solutions and specialty components serving the mobile communications, consumer electronics, medical technology, military, aerospace and industrial markets. Founded in 1946, Knowles has more than 10,000 employees in 36 locations around the world.

The UIC College of Engineering is home to more than 2,600 undergraduate and 1,100 graduate students, offering undergraduate, master’s and doctoral degrees in six departments as well as an online master’s degree and a Master of Energy Engineering degree. The faculty, which includes 29 National Science Foundation CAREER Award winners and two members of the National Academy of Engineering, has received more than 38 campus teaching awards. Faculty conduct field-specific research and interdisciplinary research in biotechnology, nanotechnology, information technology, cyber security, infrastructure and energy/environmental technology, and each year receive more than $68 million in research grants.

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