Bevlee Watford of Blacksburg, associate dean for academic affairs and director of the Center for the Enhancement of Engineering Diversity in the Virginia Tech College of Engineering, has become the first recipient of the Outstanding Commitment to Professional Development Award from the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) Region III Opportunity and Equity Committee.

The award, presented on Feb. 24 during the CASE Region III conference in Atlanta, recognizes Watford's efforts to enhance opportunities for underrepresented students and professionals in the field of engineering.

Appointed as director of diversity programs for the Virginia Tech engineering college in 1992 and as associate dean in 1997, Watford has developed numerous mentoring and training programs for students from the middle-school years through graduate studies. Her efforts have led to significant improvements in the college's recruitment and retention rates for underrepresented students, as well as improved academic mentoring for all engineering students.

Watford's leadership in improving educational and career opportunities has been recognized with numerous honors. She received Virginia Tech's 1996 Affirmative Action Award for improving the campus environment for minority and women students and the Women's Center 2002 Advancing Women Award.

Watford's national honors include the 1997 Charles A. Tunstall Outstanding Minority Engineering Program Award from the National Society for Black Engineers; selection as one of the 50 Top Minority Women in Science & Engineering in 1997 by the National Technical Association; and the 2002 Black Engineer of the Year Award/College Level Educator, presented by the Council of Engineering Deans of Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Lockheed Martin Corp., and USBE and Information Technology magazine.

In 2003 Watford was chosen by the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) to receive the 2003 Minorities in Engineering Award, recognizing her outstanding achievements in increasing diversity in engineering programs. She also was elected president-elect of the Women in Engineering Programs & Advocates Network (WEPAN), a national non-profit educational organization.

Watford received her B.S. in mining engineering and her M.S. and Ph.D. in industrial engineering and operations research, all from Virginia Tech. She was a member of the Clemson University industrial engineering faculty from 1985 until returning to her alma mater in 1992.

A professional organization headquartered in Washington, D.C., CASE is the nation's largest nonprofit education association in terms of institutional membership. CASE Region III represents higher- and secondary-education institutions in nine southeastern states.

The College of Engineering at Virginia Tech is internationally recognized for its excellence in 14 engineering disciplines and computer science. The college's 5,600 undergraduates benefit from an innovative curriculum that provides a "hands-on, minds-on" approach to engineering education, complementing classroom instruction with two unique design-and-build facilities and a strong Cooperative Education Program. With more than 50 research centers and numerous laboratories, the college offers its 2,000 graduate students opportunities in advanced fields of study such as biomedical engineering, state-of-the-art microelectronics, and nanotechnology.

Founded in 1872 as a land-grant college, Virginia Tech has grown to become the largest university in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Today, Virginia Tech's eight colleges are dedicated to putting knowledge to work through teaching, research, and outreach activities and to fulfilling its vision to be among the top 30 research universities in the nation. At its 2,600-acre main campus located in Blacksburg and other campus centers in Northern Virginia, Southwest Virginia, Hampton Roads, Richmond, and Roanoke, Virginia Tech enrolls more than 28,000 full- and part-time undergraduate and graduate students from all 50 states and more than 100 countries in 170 academic degree programs.

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