College of Engineering Dean Sharon L. Walker, PhD, has been announced as the recipient of the 2021 Winifred Burks-Houck Professional Leadership Award, given by the National Organization for the Professional Advancement of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers (NOBCChE).
The award is named after Winifred Burks-Houck, the first female president of NOBCChE, and recognizes the recipient’s leadership, scientific achievements, and community service during a career in STEM.
For the length of her academic career, Walker has been commited to inclusive research and education. She is Executive Director of ELATES at Drexel®, a national leadership development program designed to advance senior women faculty in academic STEM fields, and is part of two NSF ADVANCE-funded grants to explore systemic roadblocks in academia related to the promotion of women faculty and pay equity. In her research activity, Walker has prioritized engaging community college and undergraduate students in addition to graduate students. She has also recruited and mentored students of color and worked to elevate and promote BIPOC faculty in engineering.
Walker was nominated for the award by Reginald E. Rogers, Jr., PhD, associate professor and director of graduate studies in the College of Engineering at the University of Missouri. The two met at a professional conference, and Walker has been a professional mentor to Rogers.
“Dean Walker has become an important person in the engineering field not only because of her expertise,” Rogers said. “She is an advocate for the growth and development of women and underrepresented minorities at all levels. Much of her influence has been to keep it real such that those she mentors see the picture as it should be seen. We have been able to leverage our success because of what she has done to guide our steps. Without Dean Walker’s influence, there is no telling where many people who are of the underserved/underrepresented populations, would be today.”
As part of the award, Walker gave the Winifred Burks-Houck Lecture during the NOBCChE’s annual conference, held virtually last month. Tapping her environmental engineering experience, Walker spoke about treating water sources to eliminate contamination. She encouraged attendees to mentor young minds who could contribute future solutions.
“I am incredibly humbled to be honored in Winifred Burks-Houck’s name,” Walker said of the award. “Her leadership and advocacy has impacted a generation of people. I would only hope to be remembered as she is.”