Virginia Tech’s Center for the Enhancement of Engineering Diversity, directed by Bevlee Watford, is a 2010 winner of the Accreditation Board of Engineering and Technology’s (ABET) national Claire L. Felbinger Award for Diversity.

In making the award, ABET praised the center for its "successful development and ongoing operation of programs to provide encouragement and support for diversity in engineering through pre-college programs, recruiting efforts for prospective students, and programs to support current underrepresented engineering students."

Watford, currently serving as the interim department head of engineering education in the College of Engineering, founded the center in 1992. Since that time, the office has grown and expanded its efforts to provide encouragement and support to engineering students, focusing on the under-represented population.

“Dr. Watford can take enormous pride in the great achievements of the center.  As dean, I am most appreciative of the strides we are making in attracting a diverse group of students to the College of Engineering, and then seeing them through to graduation.  I know that these gains do not come easily; nor would they be possible without the well-established programs of the center. The entire center team deserves congratulations,” said Richard C. Benson, dean of the engineering college and the holder of the Paul and Dorothea Torgersen Chaired Professorship at Virginia Tech.

Watford’s goals in creating the center program included: increasing the diversity of the engineering students; promoting the field of engineering as an exciting and rewarding career path; and providing academic, professional and personal support programs.

To achieve these goals and more, Watford developed the following: Imagination for middle school children; C-Tech2 for high school level youngsters; and mentoring and residential programs for students enrolled in engineering. Each program is unique, designed to enhance the engineering experience, recruit and, retain the best students from all age groups.

The center's staff is immensely proud to receive this award. Perhaps the most compelling evidence of our success is the impact we have had on the retention through graduation rate for under-represented students in the College of Engineering. The center's programs have resulted in an increase in the five-year graduation rates of under-represented engineering students from 23.6 percent for the 1990 cohort to 51.2 percent for the 2005 cohort,” Watford said.

ABET is the recognized accrediting body for colleges and universities in applied science, computing, engineering, and technology. The award is named for the late Felbinger who was a leader in the promotion of diversity initiatives for technical fields.