GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Duke Energy, which began providing electric services in Florida when it merged with Progress Energy last year, has contributed $78,000 to a program designed to recruit and retain underrepresented students at the University of Florida’s College of Engineering.
Successful Transition through Enhanced Preparation for Undergraduates Program, or STEPUP, provides underrepresented engineering student populations with a holistic academic support system that prepares them for the demands and challenges that come with their first year of college.
In UF’s College of Engineering – and in the engineering field – underrepresented populations include females, as well as minority races and nationalities. The rigors of an engineering education can discourage many students, but studies have found that these minority students, particularly those in their first year, are most at risk of leaving their major. STEPUP helps connect these students with role models they can identify with, and with resources on campus where they can find help if they begin to fall behind. It also connects them directly with potential employers, so they can begin forming relationships long before graduation.
The college began the program in 1993. It’s limited to about 30 students and relies upon corporate sponsorship. With its recent contribution, Duke Energy will cover full program expenses for 10 students for an entire year and enable the production of an online video course covering fundamental calculus concepts that will be used in “flipped” classroom environments (where the availability of online lectures allows for more time in class for solving problems in a group settings). It also will fund the design tools for 140 students – from both STEPUP and the Engineering Freshmen Transition Program – who are enrolled in the summer freshman engineering design class. This class gives students hands-on design experience, typically only accessible to upperclassmen.
“Without the generous sponsorship of individual and corporate donations, such as this Duke Energy Foundation gift, our STEPUP program could not exist,” said Angela Lindner, associate dean for engineering student affairs.“Because this program is integral to achieving the key goals of fostering diversity and increasing retention in engineering, we gratefully consider all of our donors as partners in the educational mission of the College of Engineering.”
Progress Energy, acquired by Duke Energy in 2012, has been a steadfast supporter of the University of Florida for more than 40 years. Its support of the College of Engineering and other units across campus totals $6,164,413. In addition to support for STEPUP, recent contributions have provided solar arrays on campus, funding for the College of Engineering Leadership and Innovation programs, freshman retention programs, curriculum development, the UF Training Reactor digital control system, and an online certificate program in nuclear engineering and undergraduate scholarships.
“Every dollar we contribute to education is an investment in the future of our state,” said Alex Glenn, Duke Energy state president – Florida. “We are proud to support programs that help encourage, engage and excite students about energy, math and science. Our partnership with the University of Florida College of Engineering is laying the foundation for our future leaders in the engineering field”