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Spectrum: Virginia Tech's Faculty-Staff Newspaper
Watford named Black Engineer of the Year - By Liz Watson
February 8, 2002

Bevlee Watford, associate dean for academic affairs and director of the Office of Minority Engineering Programs (OMEP) for the Virginia Tech College of Engineering, has been selected to receive the national 2002 Black Engineer of the Year Award/College Level Educator.

Watford will be honored during the Black Engineer of the Year Conference, February 16 in Baltimore, Maryland. The conference is hosted by the Council of Engineering Deans of Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Lockheed Martin Corp., and USBE and Information Technology magazine.

Appointed as founding director of the OMEP in 1992, Watford has developed a number of mentoring and training programs for students from the middle-school years through undergraduate university studies. Her work has led to significant improvements in the engineering college's recruitment and retention rates for minority students.

Under Watford's leadership, enrollment of African-American freshmen increased by 55 percent from 1990 to 2001, and the five-year graduation rate for African-American students increased from 30 percent in 1992 to 45 percent in 1996. Watford also has enacted recruitment and mentoring programs for women and Hispanic students that have been successful.

In 1994, the General Electric Foundation awarded a grant of $305,000 to Watford in recognition of the progress made by OMEP toward increasing the number of graduating minority engineers. The foundation has made two more grants totaling $375,000 to support the Virginia Tech-General Electric Fund Scholars Program.

In all, Watford has secured more than $1.5 million in funding and support for OMEP and other undergraduate programs from a variety of sources including the General Electric Foundation, Intel, the Sloan Foundation, Corning Foundation, Honeywell International, Ingersoll Rand, and Microsoft.

In 1996, Watford received Virginia Tech's Affirmative Action Award for improving the campus environment for minority and women students, and she was featured in an article in Woman Engineer about how universities and companies offer support to women in engineering.

In 1997, Watford received the Charles A. Tunstall Outstanding MEP Award from the National Society for Black Engineers (NSBE) for her significant contributions to the success of African-American students at Virginia Tech, and she was selected as one of the 50 Top Minority Women in Science & Engineering by the National Technical Association.

Since accepting the position of associate dean in 1997on condition that she could continue her work with OMEPWatford has extended the mentoring programs that proved successful with minority students to additional populations of students.

Watford received her B.S. in mining engineering and her M.S. and Ph.D. in industrial and systems engineering, all from Virginia Tech. She taught at Clemson University before returning to her alma mater in 1992.

Source: Spectrum, vol. 24 no. 21
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