Obama to honor mechanical engineering's Thole as 'Champion of Change'

University Park, Pa. — Karen A. Thole, department head in mechanical and nuclear engineering at Penn State, will be highlighted by the White House Champions of Change program Friday, Dec. 9, in Washington, D.C., for her work in helping to recruit and retain women in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

The event will be broadcast live at www.whitehouse.gov/live at 3:30 p.m. ET.

Thole will be recognized along with 11 other Champions, including teachers, industry leaders, students and nonprofit leaders who have each taken great strides to reduce the barriers that drive many girls and women to turn away from high-paying, highly rewarding careers as the nation's top innovators.

Along with colleagues in the College of Engineering, Thole has supported recruitment and retention of women in STEM fields through establishing the Engineering Ambassadors program, which empowers female students majoring in engineering disciplines with advanced communication skills to recruit high school girls into engineering.

"The Engineering Ambassadors are getting out the message that engineers make a difference in the world. For instance, in 2011, the ambassadors spoke to more than 5,000 high school students, teachers and parents. The ambassadors themselves are leaders both on campus and in their early professional engineering positions," said Thole. "It will be an honor to represent the ambassadors and all those at Penn State working to recruit more women to STEM fields."

Through support by the United Technologies Corporation, the program has grown to include programs at four universities that reach high school students throughout the Northeast.

The Champions of Change program, which is part of President Barack Obama's Winning the Future initiative, recognizes American individuals, businesses or groups that embody the goals of innovation, education and building. Each week, a different issue is highlighted and groups of Champions, ranging from educators to entrepreneurs to community activists, are recognized for the work they are doing to better their communities.

"These 'Champions of Change' are community heroes, helping to build the ranks of women in the nation's STEM workforce and ensuring that America's science and engineering enterprise is fueled by the diverse talents of all its citizens," said John Holdren, assistant to the president for science and technology and director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

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Last Updated April 16, 2012