As the first woman to be CEO and dean of Kansas State University’s Polytechnic Campus, Verna Fitzsimmons is receiving national recognition for her continued support and leadership of women in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM.
INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine, the largest and oldest diversity and inclusion publication in higher education, has named Fitzsimmons a recipient of its 2016 Inspiring Women in STEM Award. This accomplishment honors women who work to inspire and encourage a new generation of young women to consider careers in STEM through mentoring, teaching, research and successful programs and initiatives. Fitzsimmons will be featured, along with 65 other recipients, in the September 2016 issue of the magazine.
“I am truly honored to receive this recognition because part of my purpose as a female educator with an engineering background is instilling in young women the belief that there are no boundaries when it comes to their future,” said Fitzsimmons, who has been at the helm of Kansas State Polytechnic since 2012. “Growing up, I had amazing mentors who encouraged and exposed me to STEM fields and I believe it is my responsibility as well as my honor to do the same for the next generation.”
Fitzsimmons, who holds a bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degree in industrial engineering — all from the University of Cincinnati — was selected for the honor because of the example she sets for other female faculty, staff and students on campus, as well as her community involvement and commitment to providing campus programs that empower young girls. Under Fitzsimmons’ leadership, the campus’s professional education and outreach department has grown attendance to its annual Teen Women in Science and Technology conference offered to Kansas high schools and has become an official member of the Girl Scouts’ Program on Demand initiative, which focuses on providing STEM learning experiences.
“We know women in STEM fields are not always represented or recognized for their success, dedication and mentorship to others,” says Lenore Pearlstein, owner and publisher of INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine. “We want to honor those who are inspirations to their colleagues, their community and to young girls everywhere who may be interested in a future career in STEM. We are proud to honor these women as role models to all.”
Before joining Kansas State Polytechnic, Fitzsimmons was an associate professor in the College of Applied Engineering, Sustainability and Technology at Kent State University. She served as the college’s interim dean from 2008-2010, successfully leading it through the transition to applied engineering and a responsibility-centered management funding model.
Along with serving at Kent State University, Fitzsimmons’ background in academia includes teaching at Milwaukee School of Engineering, Wright State University Lake Campus, Case Western Reserve University and Cleveland State University. She has a vast background in industry as well, including General Electric Health Care, and experience as a resource management, safety and regulatory engineer, and an international liaison engineer.
Inspiring Women in STEM Award recipients were nominated by colleagues after a call for award submissions was announced in January 2016. For more information about the 2016 Inspiring Women in STEM Award and INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine, visit insightintodiversity.com.
Story by : Julee Cobb / KSU Polytechnic