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Members of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers at the Council of Partners awards banquet.

Student and Faculty Contributions Honored at Council of Partners Banquet


The Office of Engineering Diversity Programs hosted the inaugural Council of Partners Award Banquet on March 25, 2019, at the Foundry on the Fair Site in Knoxville. The banquet highlighted the accomplishments of diversity student organizations and members of the campus community who have been catalysts for change in regard to diversity and inclusion in their departments, colleges, and abroad.

Interim Dean Mark Dean

Interim Dean Mark Dean

Around 67 faculty, staff, students, and Council of Partners members attended. Companies that offered support to the leadership and professional development goals of our student organizations included: Denso, Messer Construction, Norfolk Southern Corporation, PepsiCo/Frito-Lay, Inc., Tennessee Valley Authority, and Shaw Industries.

The keynote speaker for the banquet was Interim Dean Mark Dean, who encouraged attendees to appreciate the opportunities and responsibilities of being an engineer.

“Engineering is a wonderful profession, allowing its practitioners to have tremendous impact on our families, communities, state, nation and global society,” said Dean. “This also places a significant dependency on engineers to get it right. This is a burden engineers must embrace, be humbled by their responsibilities and potential, and enjoy every minute.”

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Student leadership of the National Society of Black Engineers.

Among the attendees were leaders and members from the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE), Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE, seen above), and the Society of Women Engineers (SWE), a of which achieved notable accomplishments in the past year.

“SHPE this year has succeeded in 80% of the board obtaining co-op, internship, research, and full-time positions,” said organization president Laura Ferrer. “As a chapter we have all become better leaders, better students, and better professionals. More over, we have paved the way for future freshmen, taking four freshmen to the SHPE regional conference in San Antonio over Spring Break. At the subregional conference, the chapter was awarded the ‘Leadership Award’ along with the ‘Blue Heart’ award. We are are excited to see what goals we can achieve next year.”

Awards were given to two student-organization programs and one faculty member to recognize the contributions of support to college-wide recruitment and retention efforts.

Abigail Cooper received the Program of the Year Award on behalf of the Society of Women Engineers

Abigail Cooper received the Program of the Year Award on behalf of the Society of Women Engineers.

SWE’s SWEeties Mentoring Program was named Program of the Year. This award recognizes the contributions of student organizations who are hosting sustainable and innovative programs to retain underrepresented students within the college. SWEeties is a peer mentoring program that supports students through continuous mentoring, networking, and professional development training in order to retain female engineering students and expand the networks and professional competencies of program participants.

The Community Outreach Award went to SWE’s Tomorrow’s Engineers Today. This award recognizes the contributions of diversity student organizations who are hosting substantial and innovative programs to recruit underrepresented students into the field of engineering and college. This winning program provides a one-day event for middle and high school girls with hands on activities that promote learning and the excitement of careers in STEM.

Mary Daffron received the Community Outreach Award on behalf of the Society of Women Engineers.

Mary Daffron received the Community Outreach Award on behalf of the Society of Women Engineers.

“SWE has had a great year of growth while focusing in on maintaining quality programming,” said SWE president Kalie Knecht. “This year SWE had 144 participants in our SWEeties mentoring program and 96% of the freshmen of the program retained engineering as their major between the fall and spring semesters. At our Tomorrow’s Engineers Today outreach event, we had 53 high school and middle school aged girls attend. Of those who attended, over 70% indicated that they were more interested in becoming an engineer after TET.”

At the banquet, SWE recognized members Lauren Desjardins, Mohima Mohsin, and Jess Ossyra for their exemplary dedication to SWE.

Rachel McCord, lecturer and research assistant professor, won the Faculty of the Year Award, which recognizes an outstanding professor, lecturer, or instructor on the basis of good instruction, mentoring, outstanding teaching, and service to students.

Rachel McCord received the Faculty of the Year.

Rachel McCord received the Faculty of the Year.

Her nominator describes McCord as an “incredible champion for our section,” while her colleagues commented on her impact on our college in multiple ways over the past few years. Her sphere of influence and service reaches across the spectrum: from prospective students to undergraduates (especially freshmen), to faculty, the administration and the local community. She is active in various roles, including serving on time-consuming search committees, volunteering to be a student group advisor, participating in planning the WomEngineers Day conference, and taking a lead coordinator position in First Robotics.

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