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Improving diversity

College raises more than $2.5 million to improve opportunities for women in engineering

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1:12 p.m., Nov. 19, 2013--The University of Delaware’s College of Engineering has announced plans to establish a professorship for a female faculty member in mechanical engineering or materials science, disciplines where women are nationally underrepresented.

Funded through a $460,000 grant from the Henry Luce Foundation, the Clare Boothe Luce professorship will support a female junior faculty member in the area of hard materials such as semiconductors or ceramics.

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“We are grateful to the Henry Luce Foundation for this important gift,” said Dean Babatunde A. Ogunnaike. “This investment is part of an ongoing effort within the college to drive a cultural shift for women in traditionally male-dominated science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields.”

Recent gifts to the college supporting this initiative total more than $2.5 million.

Since 2002, the College of Engineering’s female faculty representation has increased from 4.5 percent to 16.3 percent. The American Society for Engineering Education reports the national average of female engineering professors is 14 percent.

According to Associate Dean Pam Cook, the college’s strong track record is due in part to proactive programs designed to mentor faculty, department chairs and deans on best practices for faculty recruitment and retention, and even more critically, to robust faculty support.

Cook was instrumental in developing a strong UD ADVANCE program, an intercollege effort supported by core faculty from engineering and arts and sciences. Originally funded through a National Science Foundation grant, UD ADVANCE provides workshops for faculty on best practices in recruitment and retention of STEM faculty with a particular focus on women faculty. 

In 2011, a Middle States Commission on Higher Education report stated “the university has properly focused on growing the percentage of women faculty in science and engineering and through a number of distributed efforts — one of them funded by an NSF ADVANCE grant — has begun to make progress.” 

For her contributions, Cook received the national Women in Engineering ProActive Network’s University Change Agent award in 2012. That same year, the University honored the UD ADVANCE team with the Trabant Award for Women’s Equity.

Another key program in the college, Women in Engineering (WIE) also supports female students and faculty through workshops, guest speakers, networking opportunities and mentoring. Over the past decade the percentage of women doctoral recipients in the college has increased from 23 to 35 percent.

“Enhanced diversity among faculty, staff and students is key to driving solutions to today’s grand challenges — this includes gender diversity, but also diversity of thought and of approach,” said Heather Doty, UD ADVANCE manager and assistant professor of mechanical engineering.

UD alumni and industry partners have also supported the effort. This year, a $300,000 endowment from a UD alumnus and his wife, and more than $14,000 in support from corporate sponsors have enabled the college to bring nationally recognized female leaders to campus and to provide additional professional career development opportunities for faculty and students. 

Career development chairs, such as the Mills Chair and Unidel Chair, further support the effort to promote a healthy institutional climate for all members of the UD engineering community.

Future efforts within the college will focus on augmenting this success with programming to further cultivate, mentor and advocate for women faculty in leadership roles.

For more information on how to support these initiatives, contact Michele LeFever Quinn, associate director for development, at mlquinn@udel.edu

Article by Karen B. Roberts

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