Sweet Briar College named affiliate of nationwide diversity initiative

By Rachel Lucas - Weekend Anchor / Reporter
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AMHERST COUNTY (WSLS 10) - Sweet Briar College is now named as a  2016 affiliate school of the Building, Recruiting And Inclusion for Diversity initiative, known as BRAID.

BRAID aims to increase the percentage of women and other minorities among undergraduate majors in computer science departments at colleges and universities across the country.

Sweet Briar, which boasts one of only two engineering programs in the country at women's colleges to offer an ABET-accredited degree, has a long history of encouraging women to enter fields in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

Sweet Briar College President Phillip C. Stone says as they work to renew and position Sweet Briar College for the future, this designation will help their reputation be known for strong STEM courses.

"A strong emphasis on engineering, computer science and other science programs will be critical to our commitment to prepare new generations of women for leadership in all fields," Stone said. "We must do it now, and we must do it well. This is a major step in enhancing that commitment."

The BRAID initiative, funded by Facebook, Google, Intel, Microsoft, CRA and the National Science Foundation, launched in September 2014 in partnership with 15 universities across the nation. Each university committed to a set of approaches to increase diversity within their computer science departments — modeled on the precedents of several "Beacon Institutions," including Harvey Mudd, which have already succeeded in doing so. Each department also committed to providing data for a research study that will document the progress made over the course of three years.

BRAID School Affiliates, like Sweet Briar College, have made the same commitments as BRAID Institutions, but are not currently receiving funding for these programs. They include Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Rice University, Simon Fraser and Texas A&M.

As a BRAID Affiliate, Sweet Briar will have the opportunity to interact with and learn from the cohort of BRAID schools by participating in the 2016 BRAID Summit next summer. Sweet Briar engineering program director Hank Yochum, will represent the College at the summit.

"As a college committed to increasing the number of women in STEM fields, we look forward to learning more about the successful initiatives from the BRAID schools," Yochum said. "Our participation will both strengthen the College's current STEM offerings and support our efforts as we work to enhance our computer science offerings."  

Read more about BRAID.

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