2017 Commission for Women award recipients announced, lauded for achievements

April 14, 2017

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Each year, the Commission for Women honors women who have shown notable leadership and who are accomplished in their fields, have supported the University’s diversity efforts and promoted equal opportunity, and/or have contributed to human causes and public service activities. The 2017 Rosemary Schraer Mentoring Award and the Achieving Women Awards acknowledge and exemplify the achievements and contributions among Penn Staters, reflecting the University’s mission of mentorship, leadership, service, and promoting diversity.

The honorees received their awards at the 11th Annual Commission for Women luncheon on Friday, April 7. The keynote address was delivered by Sue Paterno.

Rosemary Schraer Mentoring Award — Susan Stewart

The Rosemary Schraer Mentoring Award was created in memory of Rosemary Schraer, former associate provost for Penn State. It honors a current University employee who exemplifies Schraer's giving of herself as a mentor. This year’s recipient was Susan Stewart, senior research associate and associate professor, aerospace engineering, College of Engineering.

Stewart is one of two female faculty in her department. She is the founding faculty member of the new Women in Aerospace Engineering student group, leader of the K-12 outreach program Pennsylvania Wind for Schools, and the faculty adviser to the Penn State Wind Energy Club, which she has led to two national championships for the Collegiate Wind Energy Competition hosted by the U.S. Department of Energy. Stewart was also the 2015 recipient of the WINDExchange Wind Energy Education Leadership Award from the Department of Energy.

Nominator Phillip J. Morris, relating one of Stewart's student’s comments, said, “Dr. Stewart approaches her teaching from a passionate, insightful, and honest perspective that is both engaging and motivating to her students. Her accessibility, honesty, and selfless approach to mentoring me through my Ph.D. program provided a model that I try to exemplify in my own project leadership roles at Sikorsky Aircraft.”

Achieving Women Awards

The Achieving Women Award recognizes Penn State women who have shown notable leadership and accomplishment in their fields, and have gone beyond the requirements of their employment duties and responsibilities in support of the University’s diversity efforts, promotion of equal opportunity or contribution to human causes and public service activities. The following people were honored:

Undergraduate Student Nicole Gallegor, mechanical engineering, College of Engineering

Nicole Gallegor is an excellent ambassador for Penn State, be it at her internships with Rockwell Automation, in attaining her Lean Six Sigma White Belt as an undergraduate student, or in any of the numerous leadership roles she has held during her time at the University. One such role is as the Resource Innovations Lead with the College of Engineering’s Women in Engineering Program where, nominator Cheryl Knobloch related, “Nicole encourages women to light the fire within and to reach for the stars.” In this role, Gallegor has impacted 189 first-year women engineering students at Penn State campuses.

Gallegor has also served as the vice president for student relations for the Society of Women Engineers, where she leads K-12 outreach initiatives, and is also a selected member of the award-winning Penn State Engineering Ambassador team, a role in which she advances the outreach mission of the College through hands-on projects and presentations for pre-college students.

Graduate Student — Brittany Banik, doctoral candidate in biomedical engineering, College of Engineering

As a first-year graduate student, not only was Brittany Banik a Penn State Graduate Fellow, but she also received the prestigious National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship. She has been an author on six peer-reviewed publications — three of which as primary author — and of three book chapters, as well as a presenter at several national and international conferences. She is also the recipient of the College of Engineering’s 2016 Leighton Reiss Graduate Fellowship, which identifies her as one of the top graduate students conducting research in the biological or biomedical sciences.

Beyond these impressive academic achievements, Banik is deeply committed to science outreach programs. She has served as a mentor, coordinator and panelist for Eberly College of Science’s Science-U Camps; has been involved with the Graduate Women in Science; and serves as a delegate for the Graduate and Professional Student Association (GPSA), the Engineering Graduate Student Council and the Intercollege Graduate Degree Programs. Through these groups, she has created new and highly engaging programs that center on community service and the arts. Additionally, Banik created a partnership between the Center for the Performing Arts and the GPSA that led to over 300 graduate students attending arts performances. Some of the other outreach initiatives in which she has engaged graduate students include blood drives for the American Red Cross, outdoor workdays at Shaver’s Creek Environmental Center, and coordinating collections for local families during the Thanksgiving season. Banik also volunteers with Centre County Paws and the Centre County Multiple Sclerosis Society.

Staff Exempt — Kristin Dreyer, program director for education and outreach, Center for Nanoscale Science, Materials Research Science and Engineering Center (MRSEC)

Kristin Dreyer is education and outreach director in the Center for Nanoscale Science, a Materials Research Science and Engineering Center supported by the National Science Foundation. Dreyer’s love for science and science education is paralleled only by her passion for creating and fostering programs for diverse students to come together to learn. She is involved in museum-based outreach through a partnership with The Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, where she combines her passion for science and her talents as an educator to “engage everyone in the process of science communication and learning,” relates nominator Jayatri Das. Dreyer also works with Women in the Sciences and Engineering, Graduate Women in Science, the American Association of University Women (AAUW), Eberly College of Science’s Science-U summer camps, and the Millennium Scholars program.

Dreyer is also largely responsible for Penn State having obtained two out of six national program awards from the Partnership for Research and Education in Materials. These two awards alone total $6.6 million, and they have been “allocated by the National Science Foundation to support research and education by minority-serving institutions in close partnership with a major NSF materials research center.” Dreyer also serves as the chair of the nationwide network of MRSEC Education Directors.

Technical Service — Collen Lang, food service worker, Pollock Commons

Colleen Lang is a food service and production worker who calls Pollock Dining Commons her "work home." Lang’s nominators praised her consistently high performance standards, her reliability, her flexibility and her positive demeanor. She goes above and beyond with her work, and her passion shines through when creating fresh baked goods to delight students. She is always asking the students what kinds of comfort foods the dining commons can make that they would enjoy. She is a positive force in the lives of our students, and as nominator Jaime Robinson wrote, “It is obvious she loves taking care of ALL of our students and has an interest in their success.”

Lang is eager to help out her team by learning about all aspects of food production, and she mentors others in food preparation. Nominator Jessica Welch detailed how many of their customers and student coworkers come from other cultures, and that Lang “brings them into the fold and makes everyone feel welcome.”

Faculty  — Li Li, associate professor, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, College of Engineering

Li Li is an exceptionally accomplished scientist and breaker of glass ceilings. As nominator Patrick J. Fox described, “She was the first Chinese woman to obtain a Ph.D … in civil and environmental engineering at Princeton University; the first Chinese woman faculty member in the Department of Earth and Mineral Sciences at Penn State; and is now the first Chinese woman faculty member in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Penn State.” Fox also wrote that, “In 2015, [Li] was selected as one of the ‘outstanding engineers under the age of 45’ by the U.S. National Academy of Engineering.”

Li has produced groundbreaking work in her field and has “profoundly influenced” the advancement of predicting water quality and quantity, related nominator Fred S. Canon. She is widely published, has been cited over 1,000 times, and is well recognized within her field for her incisive mind. Beyond her own research, Canon wrote, “Dr. Li has been an enthusiastic and unyielding champion for her students,” a number of whom have been awarded prestigious honors and have held their own in fierce competitions under her tutelage. She also makes herself available to students of all ages, inviting kindergartners and undergraduate students alike into her research lab, and has worked with economically disadvantaged high-school students through the Summer Research Experience program. Last but not least, Li is known for her teamwork, and as Canon remarked, “everything about her steered toward good will, collaborative spirit, and the search for excellence.”

Administrator — Deanna Behring, assistant dean and director of international programs, College of Agricultural Sciences

Deanna Behring is the recently appointed assistant dean and director of international programs in the College of Agricultural Sciences. She has had an illustrious career prior to her tenure at Penn State, including an appointment to the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and prior work with the CIA, the Department of Commerce, projects for the U.S. Trade Representative, and the U.S. Agency for International Development. According to nominators from the Office of International Programs, Behring’s leadership has transformed the Office of International Programs, resulting in a “robust portfolio of research, teaching and outreach programs,” including seven full-time faculty and staff, more than $70 million in grants, and an increase in students studying abroad from 0.5 percent in 2000 to 28 percent currently — not to mention a 300 percent increase in the enrollment of international students in the College.

Behring teaches undergraduates in the International Agriculture minor and led the creation of a new dual-title doctorate program in international agriculture and development. In addition, she spearheaded the Gender, Agriculture, Environment, and Energy Initiative, providing a platform for international partners to train post-doctoral scholars in these areas. Behring is well regarded across the University and beyond and was awarded the Distinguished Service Award by the Association for International Agriculture and Rural Development in 2016. As one nominator remarked, “she is the rare person who can actually combine a comprehensive, integrated and coordinated strategic vision with the interpersonal skills and charisma to ensure that people buy in.”

Last Updated April 18, 2017