The gift will create a permanent funding source for Women in Engineering at UCLA (WE@UCLA), a program launched in 2017 to provide mentorship, leadership training, research opportunities, and industry outreach programs for women students who plan to pursue a career in engineering. In the fall of 2018, women made up 27 percent of the engineering school's undergraduate enrollment — the highest proportion in the school's history and up 7 percentage points from a decade ago — including 33 percent of the school's first-year students. According to the American Society for Engineering Education, women earned 21.3 percent of the bachelor's degrees awarded in engineering nationally in 2017.
"Our program looks to empower UCLA engineering students with knowledge, skills, and confidence that can help propel women toward academic achievement here, and to career success following graduation," said WE@UCLA director Audrey Pool O'Neal.
Nicholas, who received her bachelor's ('85) and master's ('87) degrees in electrical engineering from UCLA, is the founder of the Opus Foundation, which supports STEM education outreach and the arts. In 2014, she made a gift of $9.5 million to the University of California, Irvine's Samueli School of Engineering in support of scholarships and graduate fellowships, outreach programs, and a deanship.
"I was so inspired by the Samueli School and their commitment to take a leadership role with Women in Engineering at UCLA," said Nicholas. "It has never been more important to encourage women to become engineers and to empower them to succeed. It is truly an honor to support the program, and I look forward to seeing how these students will change the world for the better."