Oregon State University says the number of women on the faculty of its engineering school has rapidly increased and is now among the highest in the nation.
Fifty of OSU’s 200 tenured or tenure-track faculty in the College of Engineering are women. According to the university, that number has more than doubled over the past five years and it puts the school in the top three large research universities in the country when it comes to percentage of women on the engineering faculty.
One of the recent hires is Kelsey Stoerzinger, who’s starting her second year as an Assistant Professor in Chemical Engineering. Stoerzinger studies catalysts, which she said help speed up reactions. Her focus is material that could help people store and use renewable energy more efficiently, such as solar power.
In addition to her research, Stoerzinger teaches several classes. She said the presence of so many women on the faculty means her students will have a different experience than she had as a student. "Certainly the average engineering professor I had was not a woman," she said.
Stoerzinger is encouraged by the increasing numbers of women on the engineering faculty at Oregon State. She said scientific research is strengthened by having a diverse mix of voices. “If you don’t bring everyone’s perspectives to the table, you might be limited in how you go about solving a problem, or you might be limited in even identifying what problems are to be addressed.”
Stoerzinger says she’s benefited from women who have served as her mentor, and she wants to extend that to younger women who are interested in entering the field.
"I definitely do feel the expectation to be a mentor," said Stoerzinger. But, she added, that's not just because she's a woman. "When you come to a university setting, people are passionate about being a mentor, regardless of their backgrounds," she said.
Oregon State is also touting its diversity in another way. The school announced this week that it's won a Higher Education Excellence in Diversity (HEED) award from Insight Into Diversity magazine, which is a publication that focuses on diversity in higher education. The magazine says the award "measures an institution’s level of achievement and intensity of commitment in regard to broadening diversity and inclusion on campus through initiatives, programs, and outreach; student recruitment, retention, and completion; and hiring practices for faculty and staff."
This year, 94 schools were named HEED winners. Oregon State was the only school in Oregon to receive the honor. Other Pacific Northwest schools to win the award this year include Eastern Washington University, Central Washington University, and Washington State University-Vancouver.