Foundation awards Fairfield University $404,000 to establish the Clare Boothe Luce Professorship in Mechanical Engineering


Women in Sciences
The Henry Luce Foundation's Clare Boothe Luce Program has awarded Fairfield University a $404,439 grant to create a professorship in engineering for an outstanding woman engineer/scholar.

This grant comes at a time when the need for more young people studying and carving out careers in the sciences and engineering - especially women - has become more urgent in the United States. Even President Obama acknowledged earlier this year that this is an issue, one that needs to be addressed if the nation is to stay competitive in the world in regards to scientific and technological advancements.

At Fairfield, the Clare Boothe Luce Professorship will be created in the School of Engineering, in the discipline of mechanical engineering - the largest department within the growing School.

"Fairfield is poised to provide a supportive environment where the talents of the new scholar will be nurtured," said Rev. Jeffrey P. von Arx, S.J., president of Fairfield University. "We envision the Clare Boothe Luce Professor excelling in her professional development here, inspiring students along the way."

In one respect, the awarding of the grant celebrates the vibrant community of women scientists and engineers at Fairfield. At the same time, it is an affirmation that an investment in the future of a young female scholar in engineering is a wise one, signaling the University's further commitment to women in the sciences.

The professor will be an important role model to students, Fr. von Arx added.

Most likely an individual early in her career with a newly minted Ph.D., the scholar will work alongside a cadre of accomplished peers in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) disciplines. She will also be part of a group of very strong committed women scientists at Fairfield. They include Shelley Phelan, Ph.D., the Elizabeth DeCamp McInerney Endowed Chair in Health Sciences, who is a molecular cell biologist with interests in how genes are aberrantly regulated in human disease as well as the recipient of a National Institutes of Health grant.

News of the award comes in the wake of the School of Engineering - and in particular its Program in Mechanical Engineering - having enjoyed a strong record of attracting and graduating increasing numbers of women. In 2010, the School awarded 25 Bachelor of Science in Engineering degrees, of which 28 percent were awarded to women, up from 14 percent in 2006. Simultaneously, the School awarded 55 Master of Science in Engineering degrees, of which 20 percent were awarded to women.  

"These Fairfield graduation rates are the opposite of national trends which indicate the percentage of women graduates in engineering is declining," said Jack Beal, Ph.D., dean of the School of Engineering.

In the field of mechanical engineering - the discipline of the Clare Boothe Luce Professor at Fairfield - women faculty are highly underrepresented in comparison to other engineering or STEM fields. Mechanical Engineers work in a broad spectrum of industries, including aerospace, biomedical, automated manufacturing and computer applications. Numerous companies in these industries are located within 50 miles of the Fairfield campus.

It is key to emphasize, Dr. Beal said, that the mission of Fairfield and the Clare Boothe Luce Program are complementary. In Clare Boothe Luce's bequest establishing this program, she sought "to encourage women to enter, study, graduate, and teach" in science, mathematics and engineering. The 21-year-old program has become the single most significant source of private support for women in science, mathematics and engineering. Clare Boothe Luce, the widow of Henry R. Luce, was a playwright, journalist, U.S. Ambassador to Italy, and the first woman elected to Congress from Connecticut.

The University has just embarked on the search for the new faculty member and plans to welcome her to campus in the fall of 2011. It is a tenure-track position, and the scholar will enter at the rank of assistant professor. The grant will be distributed over five years, supplemented with funds from Fairfield. The University is committed to permanently sustaining this professorship after the initial grant funding is completed.

For more info, visit www.fairfield.edu.

Image: At Fairfield, the Clare Boothe Luce Professorship will be created in the School of Engineering. In one respect, the awarding of the grant celebrates the vibrant community of women scientists and engineers at Fairfield.

Bookmark and Share

Media Contact: Meg McCaffrey, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2726, mmccaffrey@fairfield.edu

Posted on November 17, 2010

Vol. 43, No. 120