As a top ranked university, hundreds of companies try to find ways to set themselves apart when recruiting University of Michigan students. Hiring a diverse technical team is of increasing importance, and companies particularly pursue talented underrepresented students in STEM. While the University of Michigan creates programs and policies to increase the number of underrepresented students in science and engineering on campus, some companies take it upon themselves to identify ways they can contribute to the solution.
Automotive technology company Aptiv is one of them. Aptiv takes their recruiting presence on campus further by funding critical programs that meet the needs of some of U-M’s priorities and most urgent challenges: providing funds for scholarships and programs that support underrepresented students at U-M.
2020 could have been a year to pull back support from these initiatives but Aptiv has committed additional funds to support programs and students even more than before. This is a year when organizations have identified the important ways they can live their – and their employees’ – values. Aptiv has had a head start on this.
Diversity pipeline: diversity matters
With a large engineering presence in southeastern Michigan, Aptiv has seen firsthand the needs in the community, particularly when it comes to providing opportunity to underrepresented students in Detroit and the surrounding area.
Partnering with U-M on programs to create change for youth through college students is helping alleviate the access to education and equity in STEM fields. To do so, the company annually designates significant funding for diversity, equity and inclusion programs at U-M.
That’s where the BEC comes in. Knowing what programs need support and where Aptiv is interested in contributing, BEC Senior Director Umesh Patel brings a suite of programs to Aptiv for their review. The company then selects programs that they see are the best fit for their mission and goals, and Patel makes sure the funds get to the right place.
“Working closely with Aptiv leadership and knowing the inner workings of the university makes it easier for me to help them fulfill their goals,” shares Patel.
Jeff Shepard, the Aptiv Engineering Manager and Campus Lead for U-M, says Patel does just that: “Umesh seeks to understand Aptiv’s campus engagement and recruiting goals, proposes alternatives and presents opportunities. He links us with the appropriate student groups, faculty, deans, department heads, and more to meet our goals and find ways to connect.”
The diversity programs that are funded support programs for underrepresented students in STEM, diversity student organizations, including the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE), Society of Women Engineers (SWE), Girls in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (GEECS), and pipeline programs like the Michigan Engineering Zone and Wolverine Pathways.
Patel continues, “When companies support the MEZ and Wolverine Pathways, they really are contributing to broad, systemic solutions to education access. They are effecting change at U-M in the long run, but in the short term are able to move the needle with elementary through high school students. This is the long game, and companies who get involved understand the importance of this in building the workforce that reflects our communities.”
Program sponsorship: it’s a team effort
Aptiv also provides annual support for a number of student teams and programs, from the Mars Rover student team to the Hackathon to the CSE Honors Competition.
For the last five years Aptiv has sponsored the Girls Encoded program at U-M, an opportunity for female students to connect with female industry leaders and have real conversations on working in the computer science field. Every year, the heart to heart career advice from women not too far removed from the campus experience is a very important session for U-M students.
Aptiv engineer and ECE alum Vidya Mansur contributed to this year’s industry panel, sharing her positive experience as an underrepresented female engineer on her Aptiv team. Rada Mihalcea, Janice M. Jenkins Collegiate Professor of Computer Science and Director of the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory is head of the program. She says, “We are very grateful to Aptiv for their continued support — it is thanks to partners like them that we are able to work on meaningful initiatives to bring diversity into Computer Science.”
Scholarships: making a difference to individual students
In recent years, Aptiv has increased their funding for STEM scholarships, many supporting female engineering undergraduates. In 2020 the company provided more than ten scholarships during a year where it was needed more than ever.
Serafina Kamp is one of the students who received an Aptiv scholarship this year. A senior from Michigan studying computer science, she says, “I am very grateful for the financial support; it helps a lot to have some of the burden of college tuition taken care of. Also, for me, it meant a lot to just receive the scholarship because it showed that a company cared enough about my future to invest in my studies. It motivates me to continue to work hard in my classes.”
Support for students and teams helps give Aptiv a presence on campus that draws student attention. This culminates in standing room only crowds for events like last year’s speaker series featuring Aptiv CTO Glen De Vos. He comments on that experience: “I get a chance to sit down like this a few times a year with students. They are so full of energy and possibilities. It is one of the most enjoyable parts of my job.”
Connecting the parts
Connecting Aptiv’s goals with programs on campus helps them achieve an impact beyond the sum of its parts. Patel concludes, “This is what you want in a university partner: an organization that looks at their goals and aligns them with where they can make the most difference on campus. The support for diversity in STEM initiatives in particular is critical funding now. We are grateful for Aptiv’s role at U-M and continued partnership.”