Chain of Excellence: Engineering Professor Susan Lord Earns International Honors

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From Inside USD -- It’s fitting that the award University of San Diego Electrical Engineering Professor Susan Lord received this fall was a chain because it’s only one of several honors she’s received this year.Last month, the International Society of Engineering Education presented her with its highest award — the Nikola-Tesla Chain — for outstanding achievements in the field of engineering and pedagogy at its conference in Kazan, Russia. The large gold chain included a medallion of Nikola Tesla, a Serbian American known for his contributions to the design of the modern electricity supply system.

Over the summer, Lord, a professor in USD’s Shiley-Marcos School of Engineering, also became the first USD faculty member to be named a fellow of the American Society for Engineering Education. The grade of fellow is reserved for those of unusual professional distinction and is conferred by the society’s board of directors for members with outstanding and extraordinary qualifications and contributions to the field.

And earlier this year, Lord was part of a research team that included USD sociology professor Michelle M. Camacho that received the Betty Vetter Award for Research, recognizing notable achievement in research related to women in engineering from the Women in Engineering Proactive Network (WEPAN).

Their project, “The Effect of Climate and Pedagogy on Persistence: A Longitudinal Study of Women in Undergraduate Engineering Programs,” was funded by a National Science Foundation grant and receive the award for “exceptional research” committed to understanding the intersectionality of race and gender.

Lord and Camacho are also authors of a recent book, The Borderlands of Education: Latinas in Engineering, an analytical look at the experiences of Latina engineers.

Since college, Lord has been committed to increasing diversity in engineering. She recalls early incidents like the comment from one of her professors after asking a question that might have come from any student, male or female. “That’s okay,” he said. “I understand girls have these kinds of problems.”

When she went on to graduate school, she knew that women represented only 10 percent of graduate engineering programs but as she recalls, “I hadn’t realized that 10 percent would be one woman: me.” Engineering has continued to be a male-dominated field even as women have made great strides in other disciplines over the last 20 years.

In comments to the U-T San Diego after receiving her award in Russia, Lord said she is “happy and grateful to have a career that I really enjoy, where I can make a difference and be recognized by my peers. These moments help keep me going when I am frustrated by the slow pace of change in engineering culture.”

– Liz Harman