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Utah Educator Honored by Peers

Oct. 13, 2004 — The Society of Women Engineers (SWE) today announced Dr. JoAnn S. Lighty, professor of Chemical Engineering and former associate dean for academic affairs in the College of Engineering at the University of Utah, recipient of the 2004 SWE Distinguished Engineering Educator Award. In issuing the honor, the society cited Lighty’s dedication to SWE’s goals and mission and her willingness to serve on many committees that address issues of women in engineering.

The Distinguished Engineering Educator Award will be formally presented Friday night, October 15 at the Society of Women Engineers’ National Conference Achievement Awards Banquet in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The National Conference, “Engineers Leading Change,” is being held at Milwaukee’s Midwest Express Center, October 14-16. The more than 3,000 attendees include professionals from every discipline of the engineering profession and a large number of engineering students and educators.

Dr. Lighty received both her B.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Chemical Engineering at the University of Utah, 1982 and 1988, respectively.

Upon learning of the honor Dr. Lighty expressed her gratitude to those with whom she works most closely. “I am grateful to the Salt Lake Section of SWE, and in particular, Section President Chiao-ih Hui who nominated me and put forth all the effort to put the nomination together. I am also grateful to the University of Utah, particularly, the College of Engineering, for their support of my work with students. It is gratifying to know that it has made a difference,” said Lighty.

Dr. Lighty has dedicated her 16-year career to teaching and research. She became the college’s first female associate dean and has made teaching a priority by implementing ABET (Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology) criteria; the formalization of teacher training seminar for engineering faculty; the continued development of a course evaluation process; the recognition of excellent teachers; and the introduction of new interdisciplinary courses.

“Dr. Lighty is an excellent role model for aspiring women engineers and engineering educators everywhere,” says Vi Brown, national president of the Society of Women Engineers. “She has brought not only dedication to our profession but to the profession of education. She is a true leader.”

Dr. Lighty has been extremely active in the College’s year-round outreach programs, which are dedicated to recruitment, retention and increased awareness of the engineering profession with an emphasis on K-12, and impacting the percentage of female and other underrepresented students. These programs include Elementary Engineering Week for more than 2,000 fourth through sixth graders; Career Fair for high school students; HiGEAR and HiTECH summer programs for women and minorities; and Building a Better Future through Engineering, a program for Cadette and Senior Girls Scouts.

“A very important characteristic of an academic leader is honesty, reliability and the ability to represent the College to outside groups in the best possible light,” says Dr. Gerald B. Stringfellow, former dean and distinguished professor at the University of Utah. “In this regard, JoAnn is well suited to the job.”

In addition to her role in academic leadership, Dr. Lighty has been an active researcher in the Combustion Laboratory. In 1990 she received the NSF Presidential Young Investigator Award and has been involved in more than $7 million of research funding, as a single investigator or with collaborators. She supervises both doctoral and masters students, is involved with undergraduate students in research projects along with serving on numerous college and university committees.

Dr. Lighty has been the recipient of the University’s Linda Amos Award for Distinguished Service to Women. She recently organized a national conference for women engineering and computer science faculty, sponsored by the NSF Advance Program in partnership with Women in Engineering Leadership Institute (WELI), to encourage professional development. And in 2001 she was recognized with the Utah Educator of the Year Award from the Utah Engineering Council.

About SWE

The Society of Women Engineers (SWE), founded in 1950, is a non-profit educational and service organization. SWE is the driving force that establishes engineering as a highly desirable career aspiration for women. SWE empowers women to succeed and advance in those aspirations and receive the recognition and credit for their life-changing contributions and achievements as engineers and leaders. For more information about the Society please visit or call (312) 596-5223.