ADRIENNE SMITH ’81/G’84, the dean of the School of Engineer- ing Technologies and Mathematics at Springfield Technical Community
College (STCC), is on a mission to encourage more women to enter science,
technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. Why? She insists
that the United States’ economic competitiveness in the future depends on it.
“This may sound surprising, but there
are not enough engineers and scientists in the U.S. right now in order for
our country to maintain the lead in the
global economy,” she says.
This is because our current education
system isn’t producing enough graduates in these fields to fill the need, explains Adrienne. “We need more people
in the STEM fields, period,” she says.
“Women comprise just over half of the
U.S. population, but few are pursuing
careers in these professions.”
Indeed, women make up only 39% of
chemists and material scientists, 28% of
environmental scientists and geoscien-
tists, 8% of electrical and electronic en-
gineers, and 7% of mechanical engi-
neers, according to the U.S. Bureau of
Adrienne points out that this gender
gap means fewer female role models,
mentors, and educators are in our classrooms and conducting research. The
underrepresentation of women has its
consequences: we lose out on valuable
talent, knowledge, and creativity.
She’s adamant that this has to change,
and much of her career in higher edu-
cation has been dedicated to attracting
women to STEM fields. Adrienne says
this path should start early in girls’ lives.
At STCC, among her initiatives, she cre-
ated a program that provides hands-on
opportunities for middle- and high-
school girls for activities in electronics
and computer engineering technology.
And for the past eight years, she has
also conducted summer engineering
camps for urban female students of
color. These and other activities earned
her the Community Builder Award from
the Urban League of Springfield in 2015.
When she was an adjunct professor of
electrical engineering at Western New
England University from 1999 to 2001
she was involved in middle school out-
reach efforts to students interested in
engineering careers. Her endeavors con-
tributed to our University’s long history
CLOSING THE STEM GENDER GAP
BY BRIAN FITZGERALD G’ 16
Dr. Adrienne Smith ’81/G’84,
the first African American
woman to graduate from the
College of Engineering, is
working to increase the
number of women scientists