Bevlee A. Watford, Ph.D., is not only a professional engineer, she is a professor of engineering education at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (VA Tech). She also serves as associate dean for equity and engagement and executive director of the Center for the Enhancement of Engineering Diversity in VA Tech’s College of Engineering.
During the BEYA STEM Conference in February, Dr. Watford received the Educational Leadership Award for outstanding contributions to college-level promotion of education.
“It is truly my pleasure to present the recipient of this award to one of the sisters in the trenches with me,” said Pamela McCauley, who served as co-host of the Historically Black College and University (HBCU) Engineering Breakfast at the conference.
Dr. McCauley is a former program director of the National Science Foundation’s Innovation Corps. Currently, she is associate dean at the North Carolina University Wilson College of Textiles. And, of course, the 2019 Women of Color Technologist of the Year.
“Bev has modeled what it means to be unapologetic in the pursuit of equity in engineering education, with the singular focus of academic and social support programs for underrepresented and underserved students,” said Dr. McCauley.
Dr. Bevlee Watford has spent over thirty years in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education. She has had a long and distinguished career at Virginia Tech, touching the lives of thousands of students through mentoring, community- and network building, and more. She has encouraged students to reach their goals while securing more than $50 million to support pre-college and undergraduate STEM initiatives.
“Accepting the position directing minority engineering programs, I left a regular, tenured job with academic administration,” Dr Watford said in her acceptance speech at the BEYA STEM-HBCU Deans event. “Being told I was making a tragic career move solidified my need to support students who looked like me. I was told that I would never make full professor because I would not be doing funded research or publishing scholarly papers. Then engineering education became recognized as a discipline encompassing broadening participation as a research area. And because of my publications, funded research, and the center that I created, I became the first Black woman and the third person nationwide, promoted to professor of engineering education. Thank you for recognizing my trailblazing commitment to diversity in engineering.”