Robinson, Kosson garner major honors from chancellor at fall faculty assembly

Two School of Engineering faculty members collected top honors from Chancellor Nicholas S. Zeppos at the Aug. 25 fall faculty assembly, earning awards for efforts that advance understanding of diversity and for outstanding scholarship and research.

The newly established Chancellor’s Research Awards for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion recognize excellence in research, scholarship or creative expression that advance understanding of equity, diversity and inclusion and carry a stipend of $1,000. Winners also receive an engraved pewter julep cup.

William Robinson

William H. Robinson, associate professor of electrical engineering and associate dean in the School of Engineering, and Ebony McGee, assistant professor of diversity and STEM education for Peabody College, were recognized with the awards for their collaboration to broaden minorities’ participation in engineering. Their work has significantly informed the understanding of factors that often discourage black scholars from pursuing academic careers.

Their leadership of the Explorations in Diversity Engineering Faculty Initiative (EDEFI) — combined with their investigation of the institutional, technical, social and cultural circumstances that influence decision-making and career choices for black engineering doctoral students — illuminate the current dynamics that contribute to the under-representation of black people in engineering faculty positions.

“Over the past three years, McGee and Robinson have served as co-principal investigators on several projects as part of EDEFI, providing an inspiring model of collaboration between engineering education and social science,” Zeppos said. “Their exemplary efforts have engaged the Vanderbilt community, and a national audience, on the topics of equity, diversity and inclusion in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.”

David Kosson

Zeppos also conferred Vanderbilt’s top research award, the Earl Sutherland Prize for Achievement in Research, on David Kosson, a revered teacher, scholar and scientist whose discoveries have provided an environmental compass for national agencies. The Sutherland award is presented annually for faculty accomplishments in research, scholarship or creative expression.

Kosson, Cornelius Vanderbilt Professor of Engineering, professor of civil and environmental engineering, professor of chemical engineering, and professor of earth and environmental sciences, has conducted significant research on how materials in the built environment release contaminants that can affect the natural environment. He has translated his discoveries to help create scientifically grounded regulatory policies for agencies like the EPA, the U.S. Department of Energy, and several international groups.

“David’s seminal work is safeguarding human health and significantly impacting public policy in our backyard and around the world,” Zeppos said. “His research has led to the formation of the Leaching Environmental Assessment Framework — known as LEAF — which is responsible for directly influencing several important U.S. environmental regulatory decisions and policies.”

Kosson received $5,000 and an engraved pewter julep cup. His name has also been added to a silver bowl that lists all the recipients, which Kosson will keep for a year.

Click here for a full list of honors presented at the fall faculty assembly.

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