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Dartmouth Makes History by Graduating a Majority-Female Engineering Class

Jun 16, 2016

Dartmouth College granted 52% of its undergraduate engineering degrees to women this week, making it the first national research university to award more bachelor’s degrees in engineering to women than men.

Nationally, the proportion of women earning undergraduate degrees in engineering averages 19 percent, according to data from the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE).

“By thinking creatively about the content, context, and delivery of engineering education, Dartmouth has achieved a milestone,” said Norman Fortenberry, executive director of the ASEE. “Other engineering colleges must now match this achievement.”

Gabriella Grandgard
Gabriella Grangard '16

Dartmouth encourages all students, from writers to mathematicians, to take courses emphasizing technology and applied science. A majority of students take an engineering course, frequently one that involves hands-on engineering design. Those entry-level design courses spawn a number of new inventions and start-ups, and more students — male and female — who didn’t think they would major in engineering, according to Joseph J. Helble, Dean of Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth.

“We’ve been able to attract more students, and especially women, by letting them use engineering to solve real-world challenges,” said Helble. “They quickly learn how their creativity and engineering skills can make a real difference.”

The women of the class of 2016 tackled many national and global challenges. For example:

  • Gabriella Grangard and her team invented a new kind of cerebral shunt for treating hydrocephalus, a condition in which excessive fluid and pressure within the cranium can lead to chronic pain, severe disability and even death.
  • Shinri Kamei and her team created an ergonomic serving tray to reduce the common occurrence of injuries and accidents experienced by waiters carrying standard serving trays.
  • Tatjana Toeldte and her team developed a battery-powered wall-mounted nicotine detector.
  • Mary Grace Weiss and her team used human-centered design principles to develop an innovative exercise-promoting office chair.
  • Autumn Chuang and her team developed a device to filter and transport water, ideal for sub-Saharan environments.

Engineering sciences is now the third most popular major at Dartmouth, after economics and government.

Dartmouth Bachelor's Degrees Awarded with Major in Engineering

Five-year Period Total Graduates Female Percentage Female
1997-2001 281 57 20%
2002-2006 304 76 25%
2007-2011 324 91 28%
2012-2016 475 175 37%
Current Year Total Graduates Female Percentage Female
2016 117 61 52%

Shinri Kamei - Tray Bien
Engineering majors Krystyna Miles '16, left, and Shinri Kamei '16 are members of Dartmouth's first graduating engineering class that is over 50% female.

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