Conference on leadership, diversity in engineering set, April 27-28

April 25, 2007, 3:49 p.m.

Princeton alumni from engineering and the sciences will gather in the Friend Center on Friday and Saturday, April 27-28, for a conference focusing on leadership and diversity in academia and industry.

The event, titled "Leading Change in Science and Technology: A Princeton Engineering Conference for Black Alumni," is open to the entire University community but requires registration to attend. It will feature panels on current engineering research and education at Princeton, strategies for increasing diversity, connections between student leadership and leadership in the real world, and the interplay between technology and entrepreneurial endeavors.

"This is a precedent-setting conference," said Wesley Harris, head of the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the first African-American to receive a graduate degree in engineering at Princeton. "Nothing like it has ever happened before and it will serve as an important model for other universities that, like Princeton, understand how crucial it is to engage minorities in science and engineering."

The conference, according to organizers, is especially relevant in the context of current interest in Washington, D.C., over the state of science and technology education, as evidenced by last year's "Gathering Storm" report from the National Academy of Sciences, which recommended measures for boosting U.S. competitiveness in this area. Its importance is further heightened by some daunting statistics: While African Americans represent more than 12 percent of the U.S. population, they constitute fewer than 3 percent of U.S. scientists and engineers, according to the National Science Foundation.

"It will be an extraordinary gathering of black leaders in science and technology," said William Massey, the Edwin S. Wilsey Professor of Operations Research and Financial Engineering at Princeton, who received the 2006 Blackwell-Tapia Prize for significant contributions to his field and for serving as a role model for mathematical scientists and students from minority groups. "They are also scholar-leaders, leaders in public policy and leaders in business."

Harris and Massey are just two of about a dozen distinguished Princeton black alumni and professors who will be speaking at the conference. They include:

  • Kneeland Youngblood, co-founder and managing director of Pharos Capital Group and chairman of the American Beacon Funds;
  • Wole Soboyejo, Princeton professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering and director of the U.S./Africa Materials Institute; and
  • Ralph Taylor-Smith, general partner at Battelle Ventures LP and Innovation Valley Partners LP.

The conference includes a poster session, reception and buffet dinner on April 27 and a breakfast and conversation with H. Vincent Poor, dean of the School of Engineering and Applied Science, on April 28.

For more information or to register, visit the conference website or contact Christine Fairsmith at (609) 258-6828 or

Reporters planning to attend should contact Hilary Parker at (609) 258-4597 or