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Heather Walling Doty
Heather Walling Doty has been honored by the University of Delaware Women's Caucus with the 2022 Torch Award for her work in advancing women's equality on the campus.

Committed to advancing women's equality on campus

Photo by Kathy F. Atkinson

Heather Walling Doty receives Torch Award from UD Women’s Caucus

Heather Walling Doty, an associate professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Delaware, has been honored by the University of Delaware Women’s Caucus with the 2022 Torch Award for her commitment to advancing women’s equality on the campus.

Pam Cook, Unidel Professor of Mathematical Science, who was one of the individuals who recommended Doty for the honor, said that she and Yvette Jackson, professor emerita of organic chemistry, nominated Doty for her efforts as “a consistent and effective voice for change throughout the University.”

Cook explained, “This recognition [is] in view of her selfless, proactive and impressive contributions to improving the climate -- and the policies and procedures -- for women faculty, for all faculty and for the Women in Engineering (WIE) graduate students, here at UD.”

Since joining UD in 2012, Doty has held a faculty position and served in many roles across the University, including as the faculty adviser to the Graduate Women in Engineering Steering Committee and as a founding member of the UD ADVANCE Institute, which she currently serves as the principal investigator on the National Science Foundation grant that supports the institute. She is an active member of the UD Women's Caucus, serving on its Executive Board (2013-18) and as its co-chair (2016-18). In addition to her 2022 Torch Award recognition, Doty was the 2017 recipient of UD’s Trabant Award for Women’s Equity.

When hearing that she was selected for the Torch Award, Doty said that she was both “surprised and excited.” She said she considered it an honor to be among the previous recipients.

She attributed the success of the growth of the ADVANCE workshops on best practices for members of faculty search committees and its evolution to add the ADVANCE Faculty Fellows to be a part of how she was able to have an impact within the UD community.

Doty said her impact at the University came through in a series of small changes that added up over time, “Change tends to come slowly and incrementally and requires persistent, evolving effort. The essence of the Torch Award reminds us that the quest for equality is ongoing and involves hard work from many different people,” she said.

She has especially found herself to be passionate about faculty mentorship, which has a high representation of women, especially women faculty from underrepresented groups, who put a lot of time and effort to support graduate students and junior colleagues. Doty noted that, while those efforts are important, mentorship is time consuming and does not carry the same reward structures and acknowledgements in academe that research does.

When asked what message Doty would share with the University, she replied: “The University structures were created long ago, almost entirely by men. Because change comes slowly, even though women now study and work on our campuses, academia remains a patriarchal profession and environment. There is still a lot of work to be done to make the experiences of men and women equal on our campuses. This work takes persistence, research, resources and strong leadership.”

As Doty’s recommender, Cook said it was gratifying to hear about her receiving the Torch Award: “Having the impact of her work with the University’s faculty and students recognized is a wonderful affirmation of her contributions.”

Doty was awarded the 2022 Torch Award during a reception hosted by the Women’s Caucus at Caffe Gelato on Nov. 17, 2022.

About the Torch Award

The Torch Award, presented annually, recognizes an individual who has “carried the torch for women’s equality” at the University. The torch recalls the lighting of a torch for the 1977 National Women’s Conference, symbolically charting a course between the first Women’s Rights Convention of 1848 and the modern movement for women’s liberation. It was selected by the Women’s Caucus to represent the past and present efforts to achieve equality and improve the quality of employment for women at UD.

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