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Bevlee Watford becomes first African-American female president of American Society for Engineering Education

June 30, 2017

Bev Watford, ASEE president

Bev Watford ASEE president
Bevlee A. Watford is the American Society for Engineering Education's first African-American female president in the society’s 124-year history. Photo credit: American Society for Engineering Education

Bevlee A. Watford, associate dean for academic affairs and director of the Center for the Enhancement of Engineering Diversity, both in the Virginia Tech College of Engineering, officially assumed her yearlong tenure as president of the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) at the society’s annual conference in Columbus, Ohio, on June 28.

Watford is the first African-American female president in the society’s 124-year history.

“ASEE is a great organization for many reasons, including its focus on the education of engineers across all disciplines,” said Watford. “As president, I will work to increase the visibility of ASEE and its work at the national and international levels, creating transformative partnerships with strategic organizations to achieve real and lasting change.”

Watford has spent the past year serving as the society’s president-elect, following her election to the post in June 2016.

Founded in 1893, ASEE is the only national engineering education organization concerned with all engineering disciplines. ASEE is a leading voice in the community, authoring reports on transforming curriculum and transitioning veterans into engineering careers, among others; managing a large portfolio of fellowships and internships for the federal government; and publishing the world’s premier journals on engineering education.

An active member since 1986 and elected Fellow of ASEE in 2010, Watford has served the organization in multiple capacities: she has held elected office in both the women in engineering and the minorities in engineering divisions; chaired the diversity task force that resulted in the creation of the ASEE diversity strategic plan and a standing diversity committee; and served as first vice president and vice president for external affairs working to increase membership through strategic partnerships.

Since 1997, Watford has served in the role of associate dean for academic affairs in the College of Engineering, responsible for all undergraduate activities from recruiting to commencement. Watford also currently serves as an associate editor of the journal Advances in Engineering Education.

As founding director of the Center for the Enhancement of Engineering Diversity in 1992, Watford has been a champion for the participation of underrepresented minorities in engineering. Watford has secured more than $11.5 million dollars in funding and support for the program and other undergraduate initiatives from a variety of sources. Under her leadership, the college has successfully increased its enrollment, retention, and graduation rates.

Most recently, Watford has led the university’s efforts to promote engineering transfer student success through a $5 million National Science Foundation grant.

From 2010-11, Watford served as interim department head of engineering education in the College of Engineering. From 2005-07, Watford served as a program manager in the division of undergraduate education for the National Science Foundation, and from 2013-15 she served as the program director for broadening participation in the division of engineering education and centers.

Watford received a bachelor's in mining engineering and a master's and doctoral degrees in industrial engineering and operations research — all from Virginia Tech. Her research activities have focused on the recruitment and retention of students in engineering with a particular emphasis on underrepresented students.

Written by Erica Corder

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