Betsy Dell Receives 2012 Edwina Award for Gender Diversity

Educator recognized for her work to advance young women in science and technology

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Betsy Dell

As a mentor, teacher, researcher and proponent of strengthening women pursuing careers in science, technology and engineering, it’s no wonder Betsy Dell’s professional workshop series for undergraduates is called EMPOWER.

Dell, an assistant professor of manufacturing and mechanical engineering technology at Rochester Institute of Technology, was recently named the recipient of the 2012 Edwina Award for Gender Diversity and Inclusiveness, given by RIT’s Center for Women and Gender to individuals who have made gender diversity a significant part of their work. Dell was recognized for her academic support for undergraduates in the College of Applied Science and Technology, her scholarship and advocacy and the K-12 outreach she leads in the local community.

“It is an honor to receive the Edwina Award,” Dell says. “I am fortunate to work at a university that values and appreciates efforts to promote gender diversity and inclusivity.”

The professional development workshops Dell hosts for her undergraduate students, EMPOWER—Engineering Technology Mentoring and Professional Skills Workshops for Enhanced Retention—addresses barriers female students face in persisting in the engineering disciplines, including a limited peer group, limited role models and lack of self-confidence in their ability to succeed in the STEM fields.

“Women provide a diverse perspective that will help solve technical problems facing our society and also provide an underutilized resource in these high-paying, in-demand fields,” she says. “I feel fortunate that I am in a position to make contributions to this effort of national importance.”

A member of the RIT faculty since 2006 and the current Paul A. Miller Professor in RIT’s College of Applied Science and Technology, Dell mentors first- and second-year students, serves as the undeclared engineering technology program chair and focuses on the growth of the college’s Women in Technology program. She and the student members host numerous outreach and community-building programs for middle- and high-school-age girls and provide academic and career support for young women in RIT’s engineering programs. Since 2004, the number of women in the engineering technology programs has grown from 60 to 112 in 2010, an increase of 87 percent.

“Betsy has added so much to the Women in Technology program, enhancing the mission and goals of the organization, improving the ways we assess the success of the activities, and providing a means by which independent activities can come together to provide a higher level of achievement for our young women,” says Maureen Valentine, associate dean of the College of Applied Science and Technology.

In 2009, RIT was one of 12 colleges to be awarded a Campus Action Project grant from the American Association of University Women to alleviate the barriers for young women entering and staying in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields. Dell led the effort to acquire the grant and has organized numerous educational and mentoring activities for the project, including the Equal Pay Awareness events at the college.

Outside of RIT, Dell works with local schools to assist with diversity initiatives in science and technology education. The Fairport resident received the “Volunteer of the Year” award from the Fairport School District for her work with assisting with the development of single-gender technology classes. She is a member of the American Society of Engineering Education, the Society of Plastics Engineers and the Society of Women Engineers. Her research areas include characterization of biodegradable plastics and environmental consideration in materials selection for production design.

Note: The Edwina Award for Gender Diversity and Inclusiveness is named for Edwina Hogadone, who was appointed dean of the College of Business in 1960, becoming the first female dean at RIT and the first female dean of a college of business in the U.S. More than 500 people attended the event on April at RIT’s Clark Gymnasium. It is sponsored by the Center for Women and Gender, the RIT Leadership Institute and the Office of Alumni Relations. The annual dinner also highlights the accomplishments of female students who have excelled in academics, community service and leadership activities, as well as successful alumnae from each of the colleges.