For those who have been mentored by Dr. Sheila Humphries, University of California Berkeley Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Director Emerita of Diversity, it was no surprise she received the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Mentoring (PAESMEM).
She is one of 14 individuals and one organization who earned the honor this year for 2012 and 2013.
“Sheila was always present to advocate for all women and underrepresented minority and make sure no one was overlooked,” says Aude Hofleitner (PhD ’13, EECS and working with the Berkeley Institute of Transportation Studies), now a data scientist at Facebook.
At UC Berkeley, Hofleitner says Humphries was essential in making everyone feel welcome in the department, and, despite the department’s size, Humphries went out of her way to know each student. Humphries also reached out to diverse students from the admission process through graduate school to increase their awareness of opportunities and services.
Beyond academic services, Humphries also encouraged students to give back and become involved in outreach events for their program — developing a sense of community and empowering students to increase minority activity in their program.
“Sheila has infinite energy to help women and under represented minorities, and it has been really motivating to develop the community during my time at Berkeley,” says Hofleitner.
The PAESMEM is awarded by the White House to individuals and organizations to recognize the crucial role mentoring plays in academic and personal development of science and engineering students — particularly those in underrepresented groups in these fields.
“These educators are helping to cultivate America’s future scientists, engineers and mathematicians,” President Obama says. “They open new worlds to their students, and give them the encouragement they need to learn, discover and innovate. That’s transforming those students’ futures, and our nation’s future, too.”
Candidates for the award are nominated by colleagues, administrators, students or themselves in their home institutions or through professional affiliations. Mentoring can involve students at any grade level from elementary through graduate school and professional development mentoring of early career scientists. In addition to being honored at the White House, recipients receive awards of $10,000 from the National Science Foundation.
Humphries, her former mentee and alumnus Gary May (M.S.'87, Ph.D.'91, EECS), now Dean of the College of Engineering at Georgia Tech, alumna Lorraine Fleming (Ph.D.'85 CEE) of Howard University and University of California, Berkeley Biology Scholars Program Director and Co-Founder John Matsui all received the honor this year.