Created in 1973 to recruit and support underrepresented minority students, specifically African-American, Native American, and Hispanic-American students, the MEP was one of the first of its kind in the country. Professor John E. Ritter coordinated the newly instituted program in 1973. In 1975, Mr. Kenneth R. Smikle was appointed the first permanent staff person within the MEP.
The program encouraged enrollment through engineering career orientation. Minority 11th and 12th graders visited UMass for two weeks to get a closer look at engineering. Once accepted to the university, minority students attended the Minority Engineering Freshman Orientation, where they spent two weeks attending seminars and engaging with the engineering department and their future colleagues. Tutoring centers and career sessions were available to MEP students. A rigorous six-week summer program, created by former MEP director Ting Wei Tang, allowed MEP students to live on campus, attend evening classes, and prepare for their studies in the coming fall. The Minority Engineering Program later changed its name to the Multicultural Engineering Program.