Creating a Culture For All Students

Notre Dame dual degree programs open doors for women and minorities in engineering


Diversity Photo
Herve Twahirwa's collegiate career began at Millsaps College. A participant in the dual degree program focusing on applied math and physics, he is also a Vincent P. Slatt Scholar with the Center for Sustainable Energy at Notre Dame. Between classes, he spends time in the lab working on his research project, the development of the next generation fuel cells.

The following article highlights the Vincent P. Slatt Endowment for Undergraduate Research in Energy Systems and Processes and the Slatt scholars affiliated with the Atlanta University Center Consortium. Administered by ND Energy, Slatt fellowships have been made possible to Notre Dame and AUCC students through the generosity of Christopher (ND ’80) and Jeanine Slatt in honor of Vincent P. Slatt, Notre Dame Class of 1943, since 2006.

DIVERSITY ON CAMPUS REQUIRES more than a diverse student body, and the University of Notre Dame is excelling at encouraging diversity by supporting students and faculty with everything they need to succeed.

"There's a lot that goes into building a culture: that is truly diverse: diverse faculty, graduate students, peer mentors," says Peter Kilpatrick, McCloskey Dean of the College of Engineering at Notre Dame. "'We are working on all these steps in parallel, and we've made progress in all of them."

Dual degree programs allow Notre Dame to partner with historically black colleges and universities and women’s colleges to offer engineering degrees, the Minority Engineering Program and Women's Engineering Program respectively.

By partnering with more than 20 minority higher education institutions across the country that don't offer engineering programs, Notre Dame is able to award dual degrees with the student's first university through the Minority Engineering Program. Students spend three years at their original school, and then transfer to Notre Dame for two years of engineering study. After completing the program, they graduate with a bachelor’s degree from both schools.

More than 50 students transferred as juniors to Notre Dame in the Minority Engineering Program for the 2015-16 academic year – that's 15 percent of the class. Overall, 23 percent of College of Engineering students come from underrepresented minority groups. "It's been successful beyond our expectations,” Kilpatrick says. "It has grown exponentially since we started it."

The Minority Engineering Program also aims to develop strong leadership skills for college life and beyond. Notre Dame has active chapters of the National Society of Black Engineers, the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers and the Society of Women Engineers.

Notre Dame has a separate agreement with the Atlanta University Centre Consortium (AAUC) of private African-American colleges and universities, which includes schools such as Clark Atlanta University, Morehouse College and Spelman College. The consortium originally connected HBCUs with the Georgia Institute of Technology, also located ln Atlanta, but it now includes many other prestigious engineering schools, including Notre Dame.

When the AUCC partnership began ln 1969, minority engineers were less than 1 percent of American engineers. In 2003, the National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering counted minorities at almost 3 percent. More than 1,100 students have graduated through the AUCC Dual Degree Program.

"Successful students from other schools become great upperclassmen role models for underclassmen here at Notre Dame," Kilpatrick adds.

The Women's Engineering Program features STEM oriented dorms and other events and projects to build a support community among the women engineers. It also includes a partnership between the university and women's colleges. Female students spend four years at their home institution, followed by a year at Notre Dame. Saint Mary’s College, Notre Dame's sister school, sends 15 to 20 students to the Notre Dame campus every year to complete their engineering studies. Many live in STEM oriented dorms, where they can work together on classes and projects. The dorms foster social integration so that the women form strong bonds with their classmates and dorm mates that help sustain them over the rigors of their degree.

An on-campus dual degree program is also available to Notre Dame students. About a quarter of the engineering students take five years to earn this degree. Many of them earn a dual degree with the College of Arts and Letters in history, philosophy or theology.  Notre Dame’s core engineering competencies include energy, biomedical/bioengineering, environmental science/engineering and national/personal security engineering. The College of Engineering also has programs in electronic materials and devices, wireless and information systems, natural hazard mitigation, flow physics and control, geochemistry and geosciences, hydrology and computational science and engineering.

The university was founded by the Rev. Edward A. Sorin, a priest of the Congregation of Holy Cross, in 1842, to establish "a place where the Catholic Church could do its thinking.” It is now governed by a two-tiered, mixed board of lay and religious trustees and fellows. As a Catholic university, Notre Dame is committed to being a “Powerful Force for Good.”

Kilpatrick applies that commitment to engineering.  “We aim to live up to [Sorin’s] ideal,” he says. “This is what attracts most young people, women and underrepresented minorities. Who cares if it’s the cutting-edge or the latest thing? What matters is: Does it help people?”

In that spirit, Notre Dame pursues transformational research in engineering with consideration of humanity's needs, while encouraging students to achieve scholarship and service.  Notre Dame engineering researchers aim to produce the greater good for society.  The university partners with major corporations to translate research into commercial ventures that can improve health, well-being and quality of life.

“One of the hallmarks of the Congregation of Holy Cross is to educate the whole person: mind, heart, body and spirit," Kilpatrick says. "When you engage students holistically, they flourish better than when you engage only their minds.”


The original article was published in the September/October 2016 issue of Diversity in Action, written by Christine Heinrichs.

View program information and a list of student scholars here.


ND Energy is a University Research Center whose mission is to build a better world by creating new energy technologies and systems and educating individuals to help solve the most critical energy challenges facing our world today. For more information, visit the ND Energy website at or contact Barbara Villarosa, Business and Communications Program Director, at or 574-631-4776.