Richard M. Fairbanks Foundation awards $5 million grant to Marian University to fill critical gaps in Central Indiana’s engineering workforce

by News Release | Jul 06, 2022

Grant will support the launch of Marian University's new E. S. Witchger School of Engineering, which will focus on increasing the number of engineers—especially those in underrepresented populations—in Central Indiana and statewide

Not only is there a critical gap in central Indiana’s engineering workforce, but a report issued by Business Equity for Indy indicates African American and Latino residents in Indianapolis and statewide experience significant gaps in employment opportunities and outcomes compared with white residents at every stage of the education-to-workforce pipeline. This is also a crucial concern highlighted in an Indiana economic growth report produced by the Brookings Institution.

With a $5 million grant from the Richard M. Fairbanks Foundation over the next five years, Marian University’s new E. S. Witchger School of Engineering hopes to help change that by educating a pipeline of diverse engineering talent to meet the workforce needs of central Indiana businesses.

“We know that, in Indiana, there are nearly two-and-a-half STEM job openings for every qualified applicant,” said Claire Fiddian-Green, President and CEO of the Richard M. Fairbanks Foundation. “Addressing this gap is key to providing individuals with opportunity and strengthening our economy. We are pleased to support the launch of the E. S. Witchger School of Engineering and to help grow the pipeline of diverse STEM talent in Central Indiana.”

Opening in Fall 2022, the E. S. Witchger School of Engineering will offer degrees in biomedical, chemical, civil, computer, and mechanical engineering, as well as engineering physics. The degree programs combine rigorous technical training with holistic liberal arts thinking, preparing students to work collaboratively, think critically and act ethically and with a global mindset. Because approximately 80% of Marian University’s student body is from Indiana, its engineering graduates are more likely to live and work in Central Indiana after graduation.

“Marian’s vision is to graduate transformative leaders for service to the world who emphasize trustworthiness, a healthy approach to life, inquisitiveness, and have the skills needed to lead in the 21st century. Support from the Richard M. Fairbanks Foundation will contribute mightily to this vision by empowering us to serve underrepresented students in STEM through access to a high-quality education accompanied by holistic support from our dedicated faculty and staff,” said Marian University President Daniel J. Elsener.

Marian University seeks to graduate between 80% and 85% of engineering students, nearly double the national graduation rate for engineering, and attract a student engineering body that closely mirrors U.S. demographics of 13% African American, 18% Hispanic, and 50% female. Currently, engineering enrollment across U.S. institutions is well below this at 4.2%, 11.4%, and 21.9%, respectively, according to the American Society for Engineering Education. Marian’s engineering program also will provide additional academic and career development support to its students, including engineering faculty advisers, study halls, and affinity groups for underrepresented students.

The E. S. Witchger School of Engineering will use the Fairbanks Foundation grant to fund up-front construction, equipment, and other operational costs during the first five years following the opening of the school, including:

  • Construction of the new engineering building, which will open in Fall 2023.
  • High-tech equipment purchases for the new laboratories, including a state-of-the-art classroom, MakerSpace, student fabrication facility, and an advanced manufacturing and automation laboratory.
  • Hiring and retaining up to 20 engineering faculty members within five years.
“Our vision and plan for the E. S. Witchger School of Engineering is to not only offer our students and community a transformational model of engineering and leadership preparation but to also recruit and train a diverse workforce to meet the growing demand for high-priority engineering occupations in Indiana – in keeping with our university’s strategic initiatives,” said Binh Q. Tran, Ph.D., Dean of the E. S. Witchger School of Engineering. “Additionally, we will launch innovative programs for rapid training and workforce development for those re-skilling into technical fields.”

News Media Contact

Brad R. Wucher
Vice President of Enrollment, Marketing Communications
(317) 955-6307
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