The goal of the ERC is to establish and maintain a diversified environment within the ERC for Reconfigurable Manufacturing Systems to a level that is commensurate with, or exceeds national demographic levels. We actively recruit underrepresented students (graduate and undergraduate) to be involved in the ERC’s research and education programs. We also established an environment that ensures retention of the underrepresented students involved in the ERC.

Our ratio of graduate to undergraduate students has always been strong, at about 1:1 (graduate students/ undergraduate students) with an underrepresented population (women, Native Americans, African-Americans, Hispanics) of 30% women and 16% underrepresented minority students. Utilizing a number of resources through such offices as the Office of Financial Aid, the Minority Engineering Program Office, the Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program office and the office of Women in Engineering, we successfully recruited a diverse group of students to the Center.

Graduate and Undergraduate Levels


Our graduate and undergraduate level recruitment efforts have included attending various conferences and recruitment events on an annual basis. At these events, we promote the activities of our ERC and the REU program. Such conferences include:

  • FLGSAMP (Florida-Georgia Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority participation) – most recently held in Tallahassee, FL and Miami, FL and Orlando Florida. Since the University of Michigan is now home to a new Alliance for Minority Participation (AMP), we can participate in this program here on our own campus.
  • EMERGE Conference of the EMERGE Consortium for the Alliance for Graduate Education and the Professoriate (AGEP) – Atlanta, GA, 2002 and 2003. The ERC was represented at this conference in 2005, by staff outside the Center.
  • National Black Graduate Student Conference (NSGSC) in Cincinnati, Ohio, March 2004. ERC promotional materials were presented at the NSGSC in 2005 in Pittsburgh, PA, by university staff outside the ERC.

REU Program

We continue to focus on admitting underrepresented minorities and women to our annual REU program. For more details on the program, and the inclusion of students from the TCUP and FAMU grants, please see the Outreach section.

Alabama A&M University Visit

In May 2003, we visited the campus and hosted a luncheon and presented graduate programs and the ERC research and education programs to the engineering faculty at Alabama A&M. We have successfully recruited students from AL A&M into the REU program from that institution every year. One of our REU Alabama A&M students was accepted with full funding into the Mechanical Engineering program at Michigan for Fall 2006.

Tougaloo University Visit

As a result of one of the 2003 REU summer projects, the ERC was invited to present our Portable Manufacturing Project as the focus of the Tougaloo University Technology Week in March, 2004. One of our female minority graduate students was the keynote speaker and gave a presentation and demonstration at the week-long event.

University of Michigan

Working with the Minority Engineering Programs Office, the College of Engineering, and the Women in Engineering Offices, we bring a number of different groups to the Center for tours and demonstrations, with the goal of recruitment into our programs (See Lab Tours and Demonstration in the K-12 Outreach section.).

Several other activities at UM in which we are involved include:

  • Marian Sarah Parker Scholars Program – We typically provide at least one position for an undergraduate female student from this program every semester.
  • Minority and Women Engineering Societies – ERC faculty frequently make presentations to minority and women engineering societies at UM to encourage underrepresented and women engineering students to be involved in ERC research and education activities.
  • Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP) – Each year, we have about 15 students who are involved in the UROP working with faculty members on their research. Some of these students work for credit and others as volunteers to gain research experience.

International Association for the Exchange of Students for Technical Experience (IAESTE)

Each year the ERC supports an international student who has come here for a summer research experience. Summer 2005, our student from Dublin, Ireland spent two months involved in a research project, and he was included in all of the additional special programming provided for the REU students.

Future Plans for Diversity

We will continue to build on the partnerships that we have already established with other institutions such as Morgan State University, Florida A&M University, Florida State University, Alabama A&M University, Eastern Michigan University, Tuskegee University, Kettering University and Wayne State University. We will continue to make strategic trips to target clusters of institutions in key geographic locations around the country. During these visits, faculty, students and administrators at various institutions will be presented with information on the research and education programs of the ERC. Discussions will then proceed on the most beneficial way to get underrepresented students and faculty from the respective institutions involved in the ERC’s research.

Through these interactions, we will have faculty from these institutions involved in our research and education programs. Interested faculty could spend part or all of the summer working within the ERC. Wherever possible, they would be encouraged to come with their graduate students who are working on RMS-related research, and are thus affiliated with the Center. Interested undergraduates will be invited to undertake summer internships with the ERC as part of our REU program.

Long Term REU Partnership Between University of Michigan and Florida A&M University

As a result of  this partnership, we’ve had FAMU students enrolled in graduate school in Engineering since Fall 2006. We have also worked with a minority faculty member from FAMU to create a summer faculty visitation experience.

Long Term Tribal College Partnership

As a result of this program, three Native American students attended the REU program last summer. One of those students and two additional students are working toward transferring to UM as undergraduate students. We have made inroads into many Tribal Colleges, established contacts with staff members at two different Native American national publications and the American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES). The foundation work we have done as part of this grant will be invaluable to the recruitment of Native American students for the ERC and College of Engineering.

Retention Strategy

A major key to retention of underrepresented students in any program is to facilitate their integration into the program in such a way that they do not feel isolated, but rather become a productive part of the overall program. We implemented a new initiative (with select students) that provides each new graduate student who joins the Center with both a faculty member and one or more senior graduate students working closely to help him or her get settled and become fully integrated into the Center’s activities. Likewise, undergraduate students appointed by the Center are assigned one or more graduate students as their mentors.

This informal mentoring initiative was implemented in Fall 2005, and has served to quickly and smoothly orient new students to their role in the Center. Due to the short time left in the ERC/RMS, we have fewer new students starting every semester making this mentoring plan very workable.

One of the perplexing retention issues is that of the PhD bound minority students and women making the decision to leave with their Master’s degree. To address this situation, the Qualifying Exam study groups were initiated. (See Culture – Student Initiative.)