Terri Norton, associate professor of construction engineering, was chosen to receive the Educational Leadership – College-Level Promotion of Education Award at the Black Engineer of the Year STEM Conference (Feb. 8-10) in Washington.
Norton received the award on Saturday at the HBCU (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) Engineering Deans’ Breakfast.
According to the BEYA website, the Educational Leadership – College-Level Promotion of Education Award is given to a collegiate faculty or administrative staff member who has demonstrated “a strong commitment to preserving superior engineering, scientific and technical education programs.”
Norton said the award is a reflection of the commitment of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and the College of Engineering to creating more opportunities for young people in STEM education.
“I’ve been lucky in that the things I find cool and fun, I’ve been able to do those things here at Nebraska. I’ve been able to have access to the necessary resources to facilities and sponsorships to provide those opportunities for students,” Norton said.
“I look at this as being able to get the word out that we’re doing great things at Nebraska with students.”
Among the criteria the selection panel considered were: the success of the programs at the nominee’s school, timeliness of the programs to the needs of society and the corporate and public sectors, the nominee’s effectiveness in generating interest in STEM fields among women, racial and ethnic minorities, and the impact on underserved minorities and students seeking careers in STEM.
Norton was nominated for her work with student groups on the Scott Campus in Omaha – including restarting a chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers and establishing an internationally recognized Earthquake Engineering Research Institute (EERI) competition team.
In addition, Norton has also given valuable experience to Nebraska undergraduate engineering students by including them in her natural hazard mitigation and disaster debris management research and is part of a team funded by a National Science Foundation grant that aims to increase STEM education efforts for underrepresented groups while also contributing to hazards and disaster research.
“I still hear from students who went to Japan about how cool the opportunity was and have students ask me if I’m going back this summer so they can participate in research,” Norton said. “It’s encouraging to see how exposure to research at the undergraduate level inspires them to pursue graduate education.”
For the past five years, Norton has also been instrumental in teaching younger children about STEM fields through her annual Pink Hardhats Days, a summer camp which introduces the fields of engineering and construction to students entering grades 9 through 12.
Norton said the award also shows how her academic career has “come full-circle,” from the time as a graduate student mentoring some of the first EERI competitions to now being on the group’s national board as student activities chair.
“It’s gratifying to see that I’ve been involved in STEM education for all these years and still be able to positively impact students,” Norton said. “This award will increase my visibility and broaden our reach in terms of connecting with more students with more opportunities.”
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