Caroline Schauer, PhD, associate dean, research and faculty affairs and professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, has been appointed the inaugural Margaret C. Burns Chair in Engineering. Named for Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering alumna Margaret C. “Peggy” Burns, ’79, the Margaret C. Burns Chair was established to support a faculty member who champions women, minorities, and members of the LGBTQ community.
“I am thrilled with the appointment,” remarks Burns. “As soon as you meet Dr. Schauer, you feel welcomed and heard. She is exactly the model for inclusion in engineering, and her influence on the University and the profession is priceless.”
An advocate for historically underrepresented groups in engineering at all levels, Schauer has held a long-time commitment to building and fostering a diverse STEM pipeline, addressing inclusive culture within the college and University, and institutionalizing positive change towards equity. She serves as chair of the Drexel Engineering Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Committee and is PI on a Department of Education Graduate Assistance in Areas of National Need (DoE GAANN) grant, Materials for Environmental Sustainability. She has also served as PI of a National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates Site, SENSORS – both grant programs have helped to provide greater opportunities in hands-on engineering to a diverse group of participants. Recognizing a need for support for women faculty across disciplines, Schauer founded and co-directs the Drexel Women Faculty Association, a networking group of women faculty from across the University.
“Professor Schauer is most deserving of this appointment as the inaugural Margaret C. Burns Chair,” says Sharon Walker, PhD, dean of the College of Engineering. “She has guided the relaunch of the college’s committee on DEI and in her role as associate dean, she has already made significant progress in updating our approaches to equitable faculty training and search processes and ensuring our policies around workload and review are more inclusive. Admittedly, we have more work to do, but we are off to a great start and, with Professor Schauer in this role, I am certain we will continue to make impressive progress with our DEI efforts.”
Likewise, the chair’s namesake has been a role model for women in engineering. After starting at Drexel as a math major, Burns switched to electrical engineering and, by senior year, was recruited for a job at C&P Telephone Company in the Washington, DC, area. Burns went on to work at IBM and Lockheed Martin, focusing on satellite command and control, including GPS, as well as at Xerox, where she worked on transportation technology, including E-ZPass, traffic safety cameras and open payment systems like the SEPTA Key smart card, developed for the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority. In 2018, Burns moved to Leidos, where she works to secure large civil government engineering projects and contracts.
“Endowed gifts like the Margaret C. Burns Chair are closely aligned with our college’s strategic planning efforts,” Walker says. “This significant support will enable us to advance our initiatives specifically around DEI. We are so grateful for Peggy’s generous support and belief in our vision, not to mention her ongoing commitment to our college through her service on the Executive Advisory Council.”
Schauer began her career at Drexel as assistant professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering in 2003, obtaining tenure and promotion in 2010 and promotion to full professor in 2018. She was appointed inaugural Associate Dean, Faculty Affairs in 2018 and simultaneously served as Interim Associate Dean, Research in the fall of 2019. She was appointed Associate Dean, Research and Faculty Affairs in January 2020. Schauer is the recipient of Drexel’s Harold M. Myers Award for Distinguished Service and the Drexel Fellowships Office Faculty Mentor Award; she was also an ELATES Fellow. Newly elected as an AIMBE Fellow, her research encompasses a wide range of topics including processing natural polymers, structural color thin films, electrospun nanoyarns, wound healing dressings, and tissue engineering. She has published over 60 publications and holds five patents (two licensed).
“It is an honor and a privilege to be appointed the inaugural Margaret C. Burns Chair in Engineering,” says Schauer. “I am inspired by Peggy Burns’ accomplishments, both as an engineer and as a cultural change agent. I have dedicated my time at Drexel to not only pursuing groundbreaking research, but also working to improve diversity, equity, and inclusion within the College of Engineering. Peggy Burns shares these values and this endowed chair will enable me to do more to help change the culture to create a college that is equitable, welcoming, and inviting to everyone.”