Dean Keynton shares importance of increasing Hispanic representation in STEM at the White House

Categories: General News Tags: Departmental News

Hispanics and Latinos make up nearly one-fifth of the U.S. population, but they hold only 8% of STEM-related jobs. On April 18, Rob Keynton, dean of the William States Lee College of Engineering, was invited with other colleagues, students and professionals from across the country to the White House to discuss how this gap can be closed.

The event, “Building the Next Generation of Hispanic Leaders in STEM,” was organized by the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE) in partnership with the federal Office of Public Engagement.

Dean Keynton (left) joins Deans Lance Perez (middle) and Ala Qubbaj (right) at the White House for the briefing. Photo credit: Lancy Perez

“As a STEM professional of Puerto Rican heritage, I have the distinct privilege of supporting Hispanic students toward a STEM career,” said Keynton, who serves as national co-chair of SHPE’s Academic Partnership Council. “UNC Charlotte has distinguished itself as the leader in North Carolina in Hispanic enrollment, and many of those students are pursuing paths in engineering, science, technology and math. At the briefing, I was able to share that regional frontline perspective as we discussed the broader, national path for Hispanic students. We examined and articulated examples that demonstrate how these graduates significantly contribute to technical industries and leadership roles in STEM.”

The briefing facilitated conversation between academia, the private sector and government around how to meet labor needs, lower barriers and increase representation. Keynton specifically focused on discussions around constructing a sustainable education and domestic workforce pipeline of Hispanic students and professionals in STEM.

Hispanic undergraduate enrollment is up 110% over the past decade at UNC Charlotte, and graduation rates for Hispanic students have risen over 20% during the past five years. The W.S. Lee College of Engineering is ranked #36 nationally by Diverse 100 for graduates in engineering technology.

“American academia has a unique role to play in helping address this issue,” said Keynton. “There is an ever-increasing demand for professional engineers, so it is critical to educate our students to match industry’s needs. We must leverage this growing student population and ensure that our Hispanic students can see themselves having successful, rewarding careers in STEM fields.”