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Widener Agreement with Bishop Shanahan High School Advances STEM Opportunities

Bishop Shanahan High School students aspiring to be engineers can now get a jump start on their college education thanks to an agreement the Downingtown, Pa.-based Catholic school signed on Wednesday with Widener University.
Widener Shanahan
Starting this fall, qualified junior and senior Bishop Shanahan students can start taking Widener School of Engineering courses and can earn up to four credits toward their engineering degree before graduating from high school.

The courses include Engineering Techniques, a two-credit course that will be taught in the fall semester; and Computer-Aided Engineering Design, a two-credit course that will be offered in the spring.

"We are so pleased with the opportunity for the Bishop Shanahan students, who are studying Advanced Placement Sciences and mathematics, to be able to pursue introductory engineering course work with the assistance of a top level engineering program like the Widener University School of Engineering," said Sister Maureen L. McDermott, principal at Bishop Shanahan High School. "It has been a pleasure to work with Dean Akl on this study program and to learn of the excellence and diversity of study in engineering offered at Widener."

To qualify, Bishop Shanahan students must have a minimum grade point average of 3.5 or be ranked in the top 20 percent of their class, must successfully complete Honors Pre-Calculus with a grade of B or better, and must successfully complete advanced placement physics, chemistry, biology or pre-engineering.

In his State of the Union Address in February, President Barak Obama stressed the need to focus American education on the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields in order to make the nation globally competitive. Widener School of Engineering Dean Fred Akl said such agreements between universities and high schools are vital for the future of STEM education in the United States.

"Our universities and high schools need to cooperate on curriculum and resources and do what we can to move STEM initiatives forward, and this agreement is a great example of that cooperation in action," Akl said. "We have seen a high level of academic preparation and maturity in the Bishop Shanahan students who have graduated from Widener, and we feel it is appropriate that Bishop Shanahan is the first school with which we are establishing such an agreement."

The Widener School of Engineering celebrated its 150th anniversary in 2012, a legacy which began in 1862 when the institution was Pennsylvania Military Academy. Today, the School of Engineering has 465 graduate and undergraduate students in six different fields of engineering including biomedical, chemical, civil, electrical, mechanical, and engineering management.

Bishop Shanahan High School, a Catholic co-educational secondary school of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, provides its students with a strong spiritual formation, challenging academic offerings, and rich extracurricular programs. A vibrant witness to Christian values and a commitment to academic rigor and integrity prepare all students to be critical thinkers and moral stewards in a rapidly evolving global environment.

Widener University is a private, metropolitan university that connects curricula to social issues through civic engagement. Dynamic teaching, active scholarship, personal attention, leadership development and experiential learning are key components of the Widener experience. A comprehensive doctorate-granting university, Widener comprises eight schools and colleges that offer liberal arts and sciences, professional and pre-professional curricula leading to associate's, baccalaureate, master's and doctoral degrees. The university's campuses in Chester, Exton, and Harrisburg, Pa., and Wilmington, Del., serve some 6,500 students. Visit the university website,




Photo Caption:  Widener University President James T. Harris III (right) joins (left to right) Sister Maureen McDermott, principal of Bishop Shanahan High School; Sister Regina Plunkett, president of Bishop Shanahan; and  Dr. Carol Cary, superintendent of secondary school for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia in signing the agreement.