CORVALLIS - Oregon State University has been ranked fourth in the nation in the percentage of women in its College of Engineering faculty.

In a study published by the American Society for Engineering Education, the OSU College of Engineering was found to have the fourth highest "percentage of women faculty members among schools awarding 20 or more doctoral degrees," as of 2003.

"This is excellent news, because a key component of building an outstanding engineering program here at Oregon State is ensuring that we have a diverse faculty," said Ron Adams, dean of the college. "Diversity helps drive innovation. Historically, engineering has attracted many more men than women, but at Oregon State we're working hard to change that. One of our major goals is to recruit extraordinary, creative women into engineering - both students and faculty."

Two of the college's seven departments are headed by women, Belinda Batten in the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Terri Fiez in the School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. In addition, computer science professor Cherri Pancake is the college's director of information technology.

This year, two more women joined the College of Engineering faculty, bringing the number of female professors to more than 20. Christine Kelly, newly hired associate professor of chemical engineering, found OSU an ideal fit for her research interests.

"I had a lot of promising potential collaborators here," Kelly said. "They're very kind and hard-working."

Karen Dixon, new associate professor in the Department of Civil, Construction and Environmental Engineering, cited the quality of life in Corvallis as a deciding factor in her choice of OSU. Recalling her past experiences of prejudice against women engineers, Dixon hopes to encourage both her female and male students.

"It's important to me to improve the understanding that engineering is for all," she said.

Ellen Momsen, director of OSU's Women and Minorities in Engineering Program, said the college's female department heads and faculty are important role models for women graduate students.

The College of Engineering is also striving to recruit and retain more women in its undergraduate ranks, Momsen said. One program, "Tektronix Scholars," offers female freshmen a paid undergraduate research internship.

"They get to know professors personally and feel a part of the engineering profession," Momsen said of the 20 women involved in the Tektronix Scholars program this term. In the 2002-03 academic year, 17.3 percent of all OSU engineering students receiving a degree were women. Master's students made up the highest percentage of women, at 24.3 percent.

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Ron Adams, 541-737-3101