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Statler College announces 2021 Excellence in Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Award recipients

Robin Hensel, Cate Schlobohm, Savannah Hays, Lydia Knutsen

Recipients of the 2021 Excellence in Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Awards: (pictured from left to right) Robin Hensel, Cate Schlobohm, Savannah Hays and Lydia Knutsen. 

Pedro Mago, Glen H. Hiner Dean of the Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources at West Virginia University, and the Statler College Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee, announced the recipients of the College’s inaugural Excellence in Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Award. The awards were presented to the recipients in conjunction with WVU’s annual Diversity Week celebration.

Story by Olivia Miller, Communications Specialist

MORGANTOWN, W.Va.—

One faculty member, one staff member, and two students who have demonstrated exemplarily leadership that manifests the ideals of diversity, equity and inclusion into practical action, were selected for the award. The individuals were nominated by their peers in the Statler College and chosen by the DEI Committee.

“The selection committee reviewed nominations of faculty, staff and students who have been working to help make Statler College a more diverse, equitable and inclusive environment,” said Teaching Assistant Professor Brian Powell and Associate Professor Guilherme Pereira on behalf of the College’s DEI Committee. “We are excited to recognize these individuals who have gone above and beyond in demonstrating the Mountaineer Values.”

Robin Hensel, assistant dean and academic adviser of the fundamentals of engineering program, has received the award in part for providing student-centered service and supporting excellence in DEI within her respective program.

“My life has been enriched, both personally and professionally, through meeting and working with people from all over the world, with different backgrounds, experiences, knowledge, interests, abilities and perspectives,” Hensel said.

In the last five years, Hensel has been a part of three National Science Foundation funded projects that have resulted in scholarships for Statler College students with financial need, created a summer bridge program to help non-calculus-ready students get a head start entering College, and integrated several curricular and co-curricular activities to help students understand the importance of creating and valuing diversity within teams, act inclusively in teams and develop inclusive engineering identities.

“As a female who has worked in STEM environments throughout my career, I have experienced the difference between inclusive and effective teams and exclusive, dysfunctional teams,” Hensel said. “I want to help our developing engineers learn how to create and work within diverse, inclusive, and highly effective teams.”

Cate Schlobohm, outreach coordinator, received the award for her strong commitment to engaging the College’s constituents by offering a space and a voice to express their opinions for the betterment of the College.

“I’ve been lucky to be granted the opportunity to work with students and colleagues from a variety of backgrounds, and thanks to this, I’ve learned a lot about taking different perspectives and needs into account,” Schlobohm said. “My reality is not everyone else’s reality, and once you learn that, you will understand why DEI initiatives matter. If we want to push talented people to be authentic, we need to give them a safe and encouraging place to do so. That is something I try to champion daily."

Schlobohm was a recipient of the College’s inaugural Thriving Women Program grants, intended to empower female faculty and staff to advance in their professional careers through individual or community transportation. Thanks to the award, Schlobohm has been working alongside student organizations to organize a DEI conference scheduled for February.

Savannah Hays, an Honors biomedical engineering major, has received the award for her dedication to increasing representation and promoting women in STEM disciplines.

A member of the Society of Women Engineers (SWE), Hays has been working with Honors EXCEL to promote female high school STEM outreach in West Virginia. As part of this outreach, Hays developed the Morgantown SWENext Club, and hopes to target other areas of the state this year. With the help of SWE, these club will be sustained after she graduates.

“Promoting the values of diversity, equity and inclusion is mandatory to achieve the highest success,” Hays said. “Our differences make us stronger as one. Bringing people together of different backgrounds fosters new ideas which can lead to improvement and advances.” 

Lydia Knutsen, industrial engineering major and membership chair of SWE, has also received the student award for promoting women in engineering and inspiring her peers and future Mountaineers to pursue STEM fields.

“When diversity, equity, and inclusion are not only recognized, but discussed and encouraged as a vital part of society, people are more likely to feel seen and feel heard,” Knutsen said. “Everyone brings something unique to the table, and I believe when all people are taught to know they have the potential to succeed, especially those with different ideas and experiences, we can change the world of engineering for the better. 

As membership chair of SWE, Knutsen leads the mentorship program which matches members with a mentee or mentor in the same major — giving them a doorway to ask questions and build relationships.

“We are each other’s allies when it comes to standing up against the implicit bias of women in engineering, and there is no better feeling than helping build our community with even more strong women in STEM,” Knutsen said.


-WVU-

om/10/15/21

Contact: Paige Nesbit
Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources
304.293.4135, Paige Nesbit

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