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  James West:
A Dedication to Diversity

James West, a longtime leader of minority internship and hiring programs at Bell Laboratories, has been named chair of the Divisional Diversity Council of the Whiting School of Engineering.

The advisory group, the Whiting School's first, was formed to draw and retain more minorities to Hopkins engineering ranks. Just one-fourth of the nearly 1,300 engineering undergraduates at the school are women; underrepresented groups of minority students, mostly African Americans and Hispanics, make up only 7 percent.

West, a Hopkins research professor of engineering, will help model the school's diversity efforts after his work at Bell Labs (now Lucent Technologies). That company's Summer Research Program has brought in thousands of minority and women science majors to work alongside researchers. "One time, throughout the Bell system, not just at Bell Labs, there were something like 3,000 or 4,000 minority students working," West says.

West also helped convince the company and its affiliates to support the Corporate Research Fellowship Program, which funds graduate students seeking terminal degrees in scientific fields. The program has existed for 30 years, West says, and more than 500 PhDs have been awarded to women and minorities in those disciplines.

Fred Juang, professor and chair of electrical and computer engineering at Georgia Institute of Technology, worked with West at Bell Labs for more than two decades. "He is devoted to science and technology and trying to bring that to women and minorities. It's a belief that could not be more genuine," says Juang. "He shows them what a role model is."

With his lab getting set up last spring, West started mentoring six undergraduate students on engineering projects. He will advise PhD students in the fall. "One way that Jim's impact in the field is greatest is his uncanny ability to bring people together," says Ilene Busch-Vishniac, the school's former dean. The day he established his office at Johns Hopkins, she says, "he had students lining up outside his door." —JCS

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