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Update on Academics with Diversity Education and Mentorship in Engineering (ACADEME) Activities and Fellows

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2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


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Publication Date

June 22, 2020

Start Date

June 22, 2020

End Date

June 26, 2021

Conference Session

Minorities in Engineering Division Technical Session 4

Tagged Division

Minorities in Engineering

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Paper Authors


Teresa J. Cutright University of Akron

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Dr. Cutright is a Professor of Civil Engineering at The University of Akron. She has a B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering with emphasis on environmental remediation techniques with over 20 years of experience conducting site assessments, soil characterizations and treatability studies for a variety of environmental contaminants. In addition she also conducts education research via an EPA education grant and a NSF Scholarships for STEM education. Most recently she and her colleagues were awarded a NSF collaborative research grant to host workshops to broaden the participation of underrepresented minorities that in engineering.

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Rebecca Kuntz Willits University of Akron Orcid 16x16

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Rebecca Kuntz Willits is the Margaret F. Donovan Endowed Chair for Women in Engineering, a professor and interim department chair in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at The University of Akron and a member of the National Center for Regenerative Medicine at Case Western Reserve University. She obtained her undergraduate degree in chemical engineering at Tufts University, her MS in chemical engineering at Johns Hopkins University and her PhD in chemical engineering at Cornell University. Her current research interests are at the intersection of nerve regeneration, tissue engineering, and biomaterials, and are funded by the NSF and NIH. As an educator, she has received STEM-based funding from the National Science Foundation to support undergraduate research, STEM scholarships, and diversity.

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Linda T. Coats


Debora F. Rodrigues University of Houston

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Debora F. Rodrigues received her B.S. and M.S. degrees in Biology and Microbiology, respectively, from the University of Sao Paulo, Brazil, and her Ph.D. in Microbiology and Molecular Genetics from Michigan State University in 2007. She was a postdoctoral associate in the Environmental Engineering Program at Yale University from 2007 to June 2010, with her research focus dealing with toxicity of carbon nanotubes to microorganisms, as well as the effect of bacterial surface structures on bacterial adhesion and biofilm formation and maturation. She is currently an Assistant Professor at the University of Houston in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and her research interests involve investigation of the toxicological effects of carbon-based nanomaterials and polymer nanocomposites to wastewater microbial communities and their potential applications for water treatment and corrosion prevention.

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Lakiesha N. Williams University of Florida

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Dr. Lakiesha Williams, a native of New Orleans, La., obtained both a Bachelor of Science and a Master of Science in Biological Engineering from LSU. She completed her Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering at Mississippi State University (MSU). She was the first African American to obtain a graduate degree in Biological Engineering from Louisiana State University, and the first African American to obtain a Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering from Mississippi State University. Dr. Williams is an Associate Professor in Biomedical Engineering at the University of Florida. She directs the Tissue Mechanics, Microstructure, and Modeling Laboratory (TM3). Her team studies the mechanics of biological tissues and organs using experiments and computational tools. While a faculty at Mississippi State, she was recognized by Mississippi’s Business Journal as Top 21 of Mississippi’s most wanted in technology. Additionally, she was awarded the IBM Women of Color Rising Star Award, Champion of Diversity Award, and LSU Rising Star Alumnus Award. Dr. Williams enjoys spending time with her husband, Dr. Byron Williams and their two daughters.

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Global competition, changes in manufacturing/automation and desire for more sophisticated technology has increased the demand of graduates in STEM fields. Although the graduation of technically competent individuals with diverse backgrounds can help the US regain its competitive advantage, a large percentage of the population are left untapped. In engineering, women, racial and ethnic minorities, and persons with disabilities are classified as underrepresented minorities. Diversity in faculty and academic administration positions lags, which can marginalize or prevent full participation of underrepresented groups graduating in engineering disciplines. This paper will provide a brief overview of our approach and update of a National Science Foundation (NSF) sponsored collaborative project to broaden the participation of underrepresented engineering minorities in engineering academia by providing participants with an improved skill set for entry into a faculty position. The project has completed three, two-week summer intensive professional trainings and recently started the third year of mentoring.

The first summer intensive professional preparation was held at The University of Akron (UA) and had 13 ACADEME (Advancing Career in Academics with Diversity and Mentorship in Engineering) Fellows from UA, universities in the same geographical region, and from the collaborating institutions. Modifications to the advertising approach were successful; yielding applicants from across the country and increased participation. The second summer professional preparation held at The University of Houston had 27 ACADEME Fellows while the training held at Mississippi State University had 25 ACADEME Fellows. This paper highlights the assessment results from the three professional trainings, includes details as to which project activities have worked, and first-hand accounts of how the program benefited Fellows securing academic positions.

Cutright, T. J., & Willits, R. K., & Coats, L. T., & Rodrigues, D. F., & Williams, L. N. (2020, June), Update on Academics with Diversity Education and Mentorship in Engineering (ACADEME) Activities and Fellows Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--35435

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