2017 Claire L. Felbinger Award for Diversity for Karen Thole

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Karen Thole, distinguished professor and department head of mechanical and nuclear engineering, has been selected as a recipient of the 2017 ABET Claire L. Felbinger Award for Diversity.

ABET is a professional accreditation agency in applied and natural science, computing, engineering, and engineering technology education. The Claire L. Felbinger Award for Diversity recognizes “extraordinary success in achieving or facilitating diversity and inclusiveness in the technological segments of our society.”

“It is an honor to receive this recognition but would like to acknowledge all those who work to promote diversity and inclusion in STEM fields,” Thole said. “I’m grateful to receive ABET’s Claire L. Felbinger Award, which is named in honor of someone who made important and lasting impacts in promoting diversity.  I want to especially thank my fellow mechanical engineering department heads from peer institutions who nominated me for this award and who also work collaboratively in our efforts to create welcoming climates to diverse groups.”

Thole, who will accept her recognition at the ABET Awards Gala in October, has spent her academic career educating students, leading research in turbine heat transfer, and promoting diversity and inclusion through her service leadership.

Early in her career, while at Virginia Tech, Thole served as a co-primary investigator to an National Science Foundation advance grant that supported institutional transformation to ensure the success of women faculty. Later, at Penn State, she co-founded Penn State’s Engineering Ambassador Program, which quickly grew to a national network of 20 institutions across the United States. The network is a professional development program for undergraduate students, most of whom are women or other underrepresented students. These ambassadors reach out to high school students both off and on campus to describe the impact of engineering. Since 2013, the Engineering Ambassadors have presented to over 150,000 high school and middle school students.

Also at Penn State, Thole initiated robust mentoring programs in the Mechanical and Nuclear Engineering Department for both students and early–career faculty. Students are matched with experienced alumni mentors through a partnership with the department’s two alumni societies. Early-career faculty are matched up with senior faculty for one-on-one guidance.

In her roles as an educator, researcher and mentor, Thole has received numerous awards. The most notable awards include, being recognized by the United States White House as a Champion of Change for STEM. For her administrative contributions, she has been recognized by Penn State’s Rosemary Schraer Mentoring Award and Howard B. Palmer Faculty Mentoring Award. She was recognized in 2014 by the Society of Women Engineers’ Distinguished Engineering Educator Award and in 2016 by ASME’s Edwin F. Church Medal. In September 2015, she earned the George Westinghouse Medal from ASME, which recognizes eminent achievement of distinguished service in the power field of mechanical engineering. Thole holds two degrees in mechanical engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a doctorate from the University of Texas at Austin.

Last Updated August 30, 2017