Professor Lola Eniola Adefeso has won the Raymond J. and Monica E. Schultz Outreach and Diversity Award. This award recognizes a faculty member who has contributed to increasing the diversity of the College and/or performing significant outreach to the community. Lola has demonstrated a high commitment to promoting diversity within Chemical Engineering, the College of Engineering (CoE), and the University during her career at Michigan.
Within the department, Lola has long been a champion for women and underrepresented minority (URM) students and faculty members. Notably, she served as graduate chair from 2014-2016. The 2015 graduate class, the first class recruited under her as chair, was comprised of 44% women and 26% underrepresented minorities, the most diverse PhD class in the history of our department. The average incoming GPA of this class for women was 3.72 and for URMs 3.72, numbers essentially identical to the average 3.73 GPA for the entire class.
She has also recently directed a successful ChE Graduate Peer Mentor Program in its first year, which matched senior graduate students with incoming first-year graduate students. The plan was to provide an additional source of support to our new students while fostering camaraderie within each group. Another goal was to prepare the students to become excellent representatives of the Department once they leave the University.
In 2008, Lola developed a novel class project in chemical engineering’s undergraduate transport course (ChE 342) to engage students in self-directed learning while also exposing K-12 students to basic engineering concepts. The project challenges students to work in small groups to design experiments suitable for a K-12 teacher to use in her/his classroom. As an added layer of innovation, she brought in high school students from neighboring Ypsilanti and the Detroit school district to view and judge posters and experiments created by our students. Lola received a 2012 U–M Provost’s Teaching Innovation Prize for this project and it was highlighted in the April 2012 issue of Chemical Engineering Process (CEP). A manuscript detailing the project and its success appeared in Chemical Engineering Education in the fall of the same year.
Read more about this outreach project described above in Bringing chemical engineering to life.
At the College level, Lola has been actively involved in the nationally recognized College of Engineering (CoE) NextProf program. This program brings to campus top women and URM engineering graduate students from around the country for a three-day workshop that exposes them to all aspects of an academic career.
She also received a fellowship from the CoE and took the opportunity to focus on developing new initiatives to enhance a supportive environment for faculty diversity in CoE. Realizing that top-down initiatives from the college often failed to yield the desired results for diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I), Lola engaged department chairs as allies via one-on-one conversations to best understand perceived limitations to DE&I in faculty hiring, directly soliciting their ideas for improvement. This approach has generated an actionable set of new ideas for faculty hiring and retention that has been folded into the CoE 5-year DE&I plan initiated as part of the university-wide effort.
Outside the University, Lola is involved in the Women’s Initiative (WIC) and Minority Affairs (MAC) committees within the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE), focusing on promoting and advancing women and URMs in the chemical engineering profession. In 2016, she served as the co-chair for the Minority Faculty Forum (MFF), a subset of MAC focused on diversity and inclusion among chemical engineering faculty across the country.