Cal Poly College of Engineering Faculty Members Honored by Society of Women Engineers for Advancing Diversity
Contact: Emily Slater
SAN LUIS OBISPO — Three Cal Poly faculty members considered to be national trailblazers have been selected as 2023 Society of Women Engineers award recipients for their significant contributions to the promotion of gender diversity and inclusion in STEM.
The Society of Women Engineers (SWE) honorees include Amy S. Fleischer, College of Engineering dean; Lizabeth Thompson, General Engineering Program director and industrial engineering professor; and Helene Finger, Cal Poly’s Women’s Engineering Program director.
Civil engineering master's student Isabell Chavez and aerospace engineering senior Payton Porter also will be recognized for their outstanding contributions to SWE, Cal Poly and the community.
Awards will be handed out during WE23, the world’s largest conference and career fair for women engineers and technologists, Oct. 26-28 in Los Angeles.
“These exceptional faculty members have not only excelled in their fields but have also empowered women and made significant strides toward achieving gender parity and equality within engineering,” said Zoë Wood, College of Engineering associate dean for diversity and student success. “Their unwavering commitment to diversity and inclusion is an inspiration to us all.”
Fleischer, Thompson and Finger were chosen from among change-makers across the country, with their specific awards.
Fleischer was recognized as the national recipient of the Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Program Award for exceptional leadership in creating a more inclusive community for those in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. She has served as dean of the College of Engineering since 2018, setting the strategic direction of the college and overseeing nine departments, 14 degree programs, 220 full-time faculty, 55 staff and 6,000 students.
Under her leadership, the College of Engineering has worked to transform its demographics to better mirror those of California’s K-12 population. Over the past five years, the college’s first-year cohort has moved to 33% women students from 26% and to 25% Hispanic/Latino from 12.5%, empowering a broader demographic of students to contribute to the future of engineering.
Recently, Fleischer brought together more than 1,600 stakeholders to create the 2023-28 College of Engineering Strategic Plan, which integrates the college’s focus on diversity, equity and inclusion into its mission, vision and goals, focusing on inclusive pedagogy to create a sense of belonging in the field of engineering.
Thompson was named one of the two national recipients of the Distinguished Engineering Educator Award for her notable impact in engineering, highlighting her dedication and expertise.
Over her 30-year career at Cal Poly, Thompson has influenced hundreds of students directly in her industrial engineering classes and as faculty adviser to clubs including Engineers Without Borders and Cal Poly’s newly formed Out in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (oSTEM) chapter, which supports LGBTQ+ students in STEM fields. She also has created pathways for academically talented undergraduates from low-income backgrounds transferring from neighboring community colleges into Cal Poly.
Thompson has raised $9.8 million in grant funding since 2011 to research engineering education methods that improve successful outcomes for underrepresented students, and she remains dedicated to building an educational ecosystem that reflects and celebrates the diversity of its inhabitants.
Finger joins the elite ranks of SWE Fellows, selected as only one of four individuals bestowed with the distinction this year. The title acknowledges her effect on SWE and the wider engineering community.
Finger has led Cal Poly’s Women’s Engineering Program, or WEP, for 25 years and has received multiple national awards, including from the American Society for Engineering Educators, for her work to promote diversity in the industry. In addition, she was named one of SWE’s national advisers of the year.
She has taught in the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department since 1997 and has spent countless hours mentoring and helping female students, particularly those from underrepresented backgrounds, succeed at Cal Poly.
“SWE awards provide a platform to elevate and highlight career, academic and service achievements of engineers and technologists that advance the mission of SWE through inspiring others,” said SWE President Alexis McKittrick. “These award winners are shining examples for our members and the entire engineering community.”
SWE, a not-for-profit educational and service organization, has given women engineers a unique place and voice within the engineering industry for more than seven decades. For more information, visit swe.org.