Drexel University appointed Sharon L. Walker as dean of its college of engineering on March 20, marking the first time a woman had held the position, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer.
Walker is a chemical and environmental engineer who studied at the University of Southern California as an undergraduate and received her graduate degrees — a master’s in chemical engineering and a doctorate in environmental engineering — from Yale.
She is currently the head of University of California, Riverside’s engineering school and will start her job as the dean of the Drexel engineering school on Sept. 1, replacing Giuseppe R. Palmese, who has been serving as the interim dean.
According to Drexel provost Brian M. Blake, Walker hopes to revamp the curriculum and recruit more graduate students. Blake also said Walker aims to “provide faculty development that leverages best practices from her current and past engineering higher education leadership roles.”
Currently, just one out of the six Penn Engineering departments are chaired by women, with Karen I. Winey heading the Material Sciences and Engineering department. A February 2018 investigation by the Daily Pennsylvanian found that 16.7 percent of Engineering professors are female, a drop from 18.6 percent in 2016.
There have been steps from faculty at Penn to address the underrepresentation of women in engineering fields. In 2007, Susan Davidson, then Deputy Dean of Penn Engineering, founded the Advancing Women in Penn Engineering program, which engages with undergraduates and reaches out to younger women in middle and high school.