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Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo Joins Dartmouth EDGE Scholars for Fireside Chat

Feb 23, 2024   |   by Catha Mayor

Engineering Dean Alexis Abramson, President Sian Leah Beilock, and Dartmouth's newest EDGE Scholars attended an online "Fireside Chat" with US Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo on Wednesday. Attendees included additional EDGE leaders and scholars focusing on the once-in-a-generation effort to create a strong semiconductor workforce in a globally competitive market.

40th Secretary of Commerce, Gina Raimondo (Photo courtesy of US Dept of Commerce)

The conversation with Raimondo is part of ongoing initiatives by the Education for Diversification and Growth in Engineering (EDGE) Consortium, a coalition of universities and engineering schools with women presidents and deans of engineering that President Beilock has helped organize to bring more women and underrepresented minorities into careers in the semiconductor industry through the federal CHIPS and Science Act.

"Thank you all for coming together to support and be part of the EDGE Consortium," said Beilock to kick off the chat. "One of the reasons I'm so excited about what we're doing is that we are forging new paths to get the best talent into STEM jobs, into the semiconductor industry, and we can do so much more as a collective than as individuals."

Moderated by Indiana University President Pamela Whitten, and attended by engineering deans from the consortium's seven founding schools, the conversation touched on issues related to semiconductor research, development, and workforce needs. 

"We haven't, as a country, done anything quite like this in a very long time," said Secretary Raimondo. "An all-of-country effort—bringing into it the private sector and academia—to spur innovation to ensure America's technological leadership.

"Now is our opportunity, 10 years from now, to look back and say we're teaching engineering in a different way to get people ready for the semiconductor industry with massively increased numbers of graduates ... and oh, by the way, half of them are women, and that's an exciting thing. ... Our diversity is our greatest strength. Having a heterogeneity of thought is what allows America to out-innovate the world, but only if we tap into it."

The event is one of several organized through the EDGE Scholars Program, launched this month to provide coaching, mentorship, and support to students interested in pursuing degrees and careers in STEM.

"We are honored to have Secretary Raimondo join our EDGE Scholars in this conversation and serve as an inspiration and role model for our students," says Dean Abramson. "We cannot meet the growing demands of the semiconductor industry without expanding and diversifying our workforce, and she has been a critical partner and ally in our efforts."

The new EDGE Scholars Program has nearly 200 registered students so far, and the Consortium launched an "Open Your Doors Day" event where scholars from Dartmouth and Brown traveled to visit a high-tech chip plant run by Global Foundries. The next event in that series is scheduled for the end of this month when another group of 15 scholars, two from Dartmouth, will visit Micron Technology's new state-of-the-art fabrication facility in Boise, Idaho.

About the EDGE Consortium

In response to the passage of the $52.7 billion CHIPS and Science Act in 2022, women leaders from Dartmouth, Indiana University, Brown University, University of California-Berkeley, University of Rochester, University of Washington, and Olin College of Engineering formed the EDGE Consortium to forge new pathways into STEM jobs and training. EDGE aims to double the number of trained, industry-ready women and underrepresented minorities to help fill critical semiconductor-related positions.

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