Wayne State University education professor to receive award from Women in Engineering ProActive Network

May 6, 2009

DETROIT-On July 19, a WSU College of Education faculty member will receive the 2009 Women in Engineering ProActive Network Betty Vetter Award for Research.  Award recipients are selected for their dedication and enthusiasm for advancing women in the field of engineering.

Karen L. Tonso, awardee and associate professor of education foundations in the College of Education and resident of Detroit, began her research about gender in engineering in the 1990s. Her research melds her 15 years of experience working as a reservoir engineer in the petroleum industry with her training as an anthropologist of education. She grounds her research in situated learning theory and pays particular attention to relations of power, whether stemming from gender, race/ethnicity, social class or other forms of life in diverse societies.

She is an AERA Spencer Foundation Fellow and won the Mary Catherine Ellwein Outstanding Dissertation Award for Qualitative Research Methodology and the Selma Greenberg Distinguished Dissertation Award for Research on Women and Education. Her 2007 book On the Outskirts of Engineering: Learning Identity, Gender, and Power via Engineering Practice (Sense Publishers) reports the large-scale cultural study of an engineering campus. Her current National Science Foundation-funded research projects focus on an undergraduate course in real-time, embedded-systems networking, and on the academic careers of women in engineering and sciences.

"This award to Dr. Tonso truly represents her devotion to championing opportunities for all engineering students - men and women - and those underrepresented communities, particularly from the Detroit area," said Gloria Heppner, associate vice president for research at Wayne State University. "Her work aims to advance career development and advancement of women in science and engineering, ultimately diversifying these workforces. She is most deserving of this award."

Women in Engineering ProActive Network (WEPAN) is a national nonprofit organization with more than 600 members from nearly 200 engineering schools, small businesses, Fortune 500 corporations and nonprofit organizations. WEPAN is dedicated to improving the climate for and success of all women in engineering, and believes that by transforming environments in institutions of higher education, a diverse population of aspiring engineers can succeed.

Wayne State University is one of the nation's pre-eminent public research universities in an urban setting, ranking in the top 50 in R & D expenditures of all public universities by the National Science Foundation. Through its multidisciplinary approach to research and education, and its ongoing collaboration with government, industry and other institutions, the university seeks to enhance economic growth and improve the quality of life in the city of Detroit, state of Michigan and throughout the world.