The UConn School of Engineering today announced the creation of the Vergnano Institute for Inclusion, an endowed Institute funded by a generous gift from two UConn alumni, that will drive increased diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) within the engineering field by providing underrepresented students with access to scholarships, coaching and mentorship opportunities, training, and other critical career development resources within the School. This gift represents the largest DEI investment in the history of the UConn School of Engineering and is one of the largest single DEI investments in UConn.
Funding for the Institute will be kickstarted by a $3 million gift from Mark and Betsy (Reddington) Vergnano, alumni of the UConn School of Engineering and School of Liberal Arts and Sciences, respectively. Mark, who was inducted into UConn’s Academy of Distinguished Engineers in 2005, serves as CEO of The Chemours Company, a global chemistry company with leading market positions in Titanium Technologies, Thermal & Specialized Solutions, Advanced Performance Materials, and Chemical Solutions.
The Vergnano Institute for Inclusion builds upon the School’s 30-year legacy of diversity, equity, and inclusion and will enhance several signature diversity programs, such as the school’s five-week intensive residential BRIDGE Program, which serves underrepresented incoming freshmen engineering students – both minorities and women.
“It is an incredible honor for Betsy and me to be a part of, and build upon, a storied and impactful program that is focused on advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion through our alma mater,” said Mark Vergnano. “The Vergnano Institute for Inclusion will provide crucial support for Scholars that opens doors, shifts industry paradigms and creates a competitive workforce of diverse talent within engineering.”
“This is a crucial moment in UConn’s history—a chance to further invest in growing our diverse student body, while offering key resources to our current students,” said Dr. Andrew Agwunobi, Interim UConn President and CEO of UConn Health. “Our School of Engineering graduates over 50 percent of Connecticut’s new engineering workforce each year, and this new Institute will ensure that those new engineers will truly reflect the changing face of America’s industries.”
“The School of Engineering serves as an economic engine to the state—offering world-class students to the workforce and cutting-edge research to our industrial partners. But a more diverse engineering workforce is sorely needed, and the Vergnano’s gift will allow some of the state’s largest companies to innovate and thrive,” said Kazem Kazerounian, Dean of UConn Engineering.
The Vergnanos have long been committed to making a college education affordable to students, and Mark’s passion for promoting greater diversity and inclusion in the chemical industry has carried over to Chemours. Since its founding, Chemours has taken bold actions to drive diversity, increase access to science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) professions for more populations, and identify top talent from underrepresented communities. The company launched the Future of Chemistry Scholarship (FOCS) program in 2017 and was a lead partner for the subsequent Future of STEM Scholars Initiative (FOSSI), an industry-wide partnership providing scholarships, internships, and mentorship to students pursuing a STEM education at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), where Mark serves as the founding chair.
Kevin McLaughlin has been named Director of the new Vergnano Institute, having previously served as the Director of the school’s former Engineering Diversity and Outreach Center. Stephany Santos will serve as Associate Director.
For more information visit, inclusion.engr.uconn.edu.