Rachel Davidson appointed associate dean for diversity in College of Engineering

Rachel Davidson, professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, has been appointed associate dean for diversity in the College of Engineering at the University of Delaware.

“Over the past several months, while serving as interim associate dean, Rachel worked tirelessly with me and with many others in the college to develop a structure for our diversity initiative, which she will be implementing over the next few years,” said Dean Babatunde Ogunnaike in announcing the appointment.

That structure includes working groups for the various constituencies within the college, as well as a committee with representatives from all seven academic departments in the college.

Michael Chajes, professor of civil engineering, will lead the faculty working group; Jenni Buckley, assistant professor of mechanical engineering, will head the undergraduate group; and Chrissy Shin, HR manager in engineering, will work with staff. Davidson is currently seeking a leader for the graduate student working group.

As the diversity advocate for the college, Davidson will also be working with Carol Henderson, UD’s vice provost for diversity.

“Diversity is a really big issue, so we’re breaking it down into smaller groups that can focus on each of these constituencies while also ensuring coordination among them,” Davidson says. “We realize that the issues may be different for different groups as well as from one department to another.”

“Our goal is to create a structure that can generate a compelling initiative and to engage people who have shown a strong interest in some aspect of diversity,” she adds. “We want to empower people and give them the resources they need to have an impact.”

Davidson emphasizes that she is working on the strong foundation built by others in the college who have worked on diversity issues over the past decade, including Pam Cook, who leads UD’s ADVANCE Institute, and Michael Vaughan, who manages the college’s academic and educational infrastructure and supports processes to foster successful student outcomes, particularly through the RISE Program.

“We’re at a good starting point,” Davidson says. “Our main two tasks right now are to look at the data we have to see where we are in terms of recruitment and retention and then to inventory what we’ve already done to see what has worked and what hasn’t. Once we see where our real challenges are, we can be more strategic moving forward.”

Davidson can’t help looking at events across the world as she considers her new position.

“Engineering as a profession is better if we have more perspectives and broader talent,” she says. “But in the larger scheme, if we can make our own little community more harmonious, then that’s good for society too.”