Carolyn Vallas Wins Engineering Education Award

April 26, 2012 — The American Society for Engineering Education has named Carolyn Vallas, assistant dean for diversity at the University of Virginia's School of Engineering and Applied Science, the 2012 winner of the DuPont Minorities in Engineering Award.

The society will honor her June 13 at its annual awards banquet and conference in San Antonio. The award consists of a $1,500 honorarium, a framed certificate and a grant of $500 for travel expenses to the conference.

The society gives the award in recognition of contributions to engineering education. Vallas, who joined the Engineering School 15 years ago, directs the Center for Diversity in Engineering, which seeks to increase the recruitment and retention of underrepresented students in engineering.

Vallas has spearheaded several major activities to expand recruitment and retention of women and minorities in the fields known as "STEM" – science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

In 2007, she won a $5 million grant from the National Science Foundation's Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation Program. The initiative, termed VA-NC AMP, comprises eight state universities and historically black colleges and universities in both states and works to increase the quality and quantity of students completing STEM baccalaureate degree programs and pursuing graduate study.

Other NSF-funded programs provide research experiences for undergraduates and for kindergarten through 12th-grade teachers.

With a new grant from the National Center for Women & Information Technology and Microsoft Research, Vallas will pilot a program that will focus on recruiting and retaining women in computing and technology. The program will bring prospective graduate students to U.Va. next summer to provide enhanced exposure to graduate programs, facilities, faculty and graduate student life.

Vallas also coordinates the LEAD-Summer Engineering Institute, which aims to get high school students more interested in pursuing STEM fields, and two summer camps with engineering themes, including the Exxon-Bernard Harris Summer Camp for sixth- through eighth-graders.

In addition, she runs the Bridge program that helps incoming first-year U.Va. engineering students make a smooth transition into college. She also advises several engineering student groups on Grounds.

— by Anne Bromley