Bhatia Receives 2015 WEPAN University Change Agent Award
On June 11, Meredith Professor Shobha K. Bhatia was honored at the 2015 WEPAN Change Leader Forum as a University Change Agent. WEPAN, which stands for Women in Engineering ProActive Network, confers its University Change Agent Award in honor of an individual who has a positive impact on their institution with regard to the climate for women in science, technology, engineerin, and math fields, with an emphasis on engineering.
Since entering an all-male faculty College of Engineering and Computer Science in 1980 as an assistant professor, Bhatia, has carved out a distinguished record as a geotechnical engineering scholar, professor and chair in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. In her time at the University, she has published more than 100 papers in prestigious journals and conference proceedings. In addition, she has received research funding from the National Science Foundation, New York Department of Transportation and many Geosynthetic manufacturers. Bhatia remained the only female faculty member in the college for many years, and was the only female full professor until 2008.
Galvanized by a needs assessment she conducted in 1999, Bhatia created the Women in Science and Engineering program (WiSE), for which she remains the key visionary leader. In addition to mentoring and professional development programs for faculty, she drove the establishment of a WiSE Learning Community for undergraduates, the WiSE Future Professionals Program (WiSE-FPP) for doctoral women in STEM and an undergraduate women of color in STEM mentoring program. The mission of WiSE is to support the persistence and excellence of women in STEM from freshman to faculty.
In 2010, as a result of Bhatia’s formidable support and leadership, SU was awarded a prestigious NSF ADVANCE Institutional Transformation grant (called SU ADVANCE) for $3.4 million. With the SU ADVANCE platform, she elevated the discussion, initiated strategies to improve the climate and culture across STEM departments and sought male colleagues’ support for policy and practices that increased recruitment, retention and advancement of women faculty in STEM. In addition to the dual career network and improved dependent care advocacy, there have been improvements to recruitment training on equitable search practices and candidate assessment strategies, expanded methods for improving the diversity composition of the candidate pool, increased mentoring consistency in format and application, and many more departments making diversity one of their strategic priorities.
In a joint nomination letter, Interim Dean Chilukuri K. Mohan of the College of Engineering and Computer Science and Dean Karin Ruhlandt of the College of Arts and Sciences attested that, “Dr. Bhatia’s longstanding work on campus to improve the climate and representation of women in the STEM disciplines has a profound and highly positive impact on the Syracuse University community.”