Four engineering faculty named fellows for STEM leadership program

September 26, 2022

By Mariah Chuprinski

UNIVERISTY PARK, Pa. — Four Penn State College of Engineering faculty members were selected as part of the 2022-23 cohort of Drexel University’s Executive Leadership in Academic Technology, Engineering and Science (ELATES) program. The one-year, part-time leadership program provides training and development for women faculty and administrators. 

The selected Penn State faculty include Jingjing Li, professor of industrial and manufacturing engineering; Scarlett Miller, professor of engineering design, mechanical engineering, industrial and manufacturing engineering and director of the Penn State Center for Research in Design and Innovation; Qian Wang, associate head for faculty and professor of mechanical engineering; and Sarah Zappe, assistant dean for teaching and learning and director of the Penn State Leonhard Center. The Penn State fellows are part of a cohort of 30 faculty members from over 25 institutions of higher education across the U.S. and Canada. 

The ELATES program is designed to promote women, as well as faculty allies of all genders, into institutional leadership roles, according to the ELATES at Drexel webpage. Fellows typically hold senior positions in academic engineering, computer science and other STEM fields and must be committed to increasing the representation of women in STEM.

“As professors, we’re trained in the core application of our science, and in how to educate students, but we’re not trained to be effective leaders,” Miller said. “As someone who’s very interested in joining leadership within the University, I wanted to make sure that I had the proper preparation to effectively lead. The ELATES program provides that training and the support network I need to be an effective leader.”

Fellows complete three in-residence sessions of four to six days each to enhance their knowledge and skills in business practices of higher education, project management and leadership communication. Alongside in-person seminars, participants complete online readings and assignments, participate in monthly conference calls with learning communities and senior advisers, interview officials at their home institution, receive professional and peer mentoring, and develop an Institutional Action Project (IAP), where they create a project to benefit their home institution and practice new skills learned through the program.

“The IAP gives us an opportunity to explore a project we are passionate about and that can have a meaningful impact at our own institution,” Zappe said. “Having the ability and time to work on a project that is interesting to me that I know can positively impact the College of Engineering is very exciting to me.” 

Li was selected as an ELATES fellow in 2020 but deferred enrolling due to pandemic-related concerns.

“I am looking forward to hearing about the experiences of successful administrators and faculty who are involved with the ELATES program and learning more about university administrative structures,” she said. “I also hope to gain confidence about my leadership skills in order to provide effective leadership in STEM education settings in the University community.” 

Wang said she heard good things about the program from past participants, many of whom went on to administrative posts after completing the program. 

“One major goal in participating in the program is to network with women leaders from other institutions, which I am most excited about,” she said. “Another major goal of mine is to receive formal training on leadership skills to address the many challenges facing higher education today.”

The program will conclude with a forum in March 2023 where fellows will present their Institutional Action Projects that they developed in collaboration with their organization’s leadership, which functions as the capstone of the program.


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