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Promoting Women

Professor plans to produce more Pakistani science, technology and engineering graduates

May 6, 2008

By Russ L. Hudson

Maqsood Chaudhry, professor of electrical engineering, believes more Pakistani women should have a chance to learn, and work in, science, technology and engineering, and he's found a way to help.

In March, Chaudhry was awarded $199,999.46 by the American Council on Education Office of Higher Education for Development (ACE-HED) to support an Institutional Partnership of Higher Education effort titled "Partnership for Women in Science, Technology and Engineering in Pakistan."

Maqsood Chaudhry

Maqsood Chaudhry

With the money, Chaudhry will work with two universities in Pakistan in a multi-pronged approach: The institutions will assist women graduate students earn graduate degrees in science, technology and engineering disciplines by offering scholarships; encourage women undergraduates in those fields to work toward graduate degrees; encourage high school and junior high school girls to enter those fields of study; and encourage potential employers to hire women in those fields.

"A significant number of families in Pakistan won't send their daughters to co-ed institutions, usually for cultural reasons," Chaudhry explained. "But, the two all-women universities don't have enough professors to teach all the women who want engineering, technology or science degrees. Only one in every 10 women who want to go to a university that offers degrees in those subjects is admitted."

He said that helping more women get graduate degrees will likely increase college female faculty numbers.

"We want some to go to a co-ed institution to get their degrees, too, which will make it more likely for them to be able to teach in co-ed institutions in Pakistan," Chaudhry said. "We will help some of them come to Cal State Fullerton. Our plan is to offer 10 scholarships for graduate studies there and to bring two women here."

The two coming to CSUF will start in fall 2008, he said.

To keep the flow going from high school to undergraduate study, graduate study, positions in industry and teaching, Chaudhry will make personal appearances and create printed and electronic materials for students. He will travel to the Pakistan universities, high schools, businesses and other organizations to explain and encourage girls to pursue their ambitions in science, technology and engineering (STE). In addition, Chaudhry will teach at the universities this summer, next summer and during the winter intersession of 2009.

The project aims for a 10 percent increase in the number of women graduates entering the job market in STE professions, according to ACE/HED.

"Women can bring a new and valuable perspective to the classroom and to the workplace," Chaudhry said. "As just one example, my wife is 5-feet-5 and can't drive most American-made cars. She can't reach the pedals easily. She is about average height for a woman, but apparently height wasn't fully considered by the designers. By engineering adjustable pedals or more-adjustable seats, that problem could have been solved."

Another example cited was one given by Dorota Huizinga, associate dean of the College of Engineering and Computer Science, at a recent talk about women in engineering: "My husband works in the industry," Huizinga said. "I posed the question to him, ‘After all these years, why are there no purse holders for women in automobiles?' He smiled and said, ‘There is one. It's called a seat.' I responded, ‘No, not really. When I hit the brakes, it's called a floor!' "

The funding for Chaudhry's pilot program is an outcome of the 2006 United States-Pakistan Presidential Dialogue on Education. The U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Agency for International Development agreed to support Pakistan's goals for STE education, including continued support for academic and professional exchanges. Through the partnership linking Fatimah Jinnah Women University and Sardar Bahadur Khan Women's University with Cal State Fullerton, the program is intended to model successful strategies to facilitate the matriculation of greater numbers of women in STE disciplines and increase their participation in related research and career opportunities.

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