Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

students in labs

Our commitment

Engineering is all about solving problems. And the challenges confronting us are daunting indeed. Climate change, aging infrastructure, rampant pollution, insidious threats to cyber security, global hunger, deadly pandemics—to name just a few.

Many threaten our very existence.


We cannot hope to adequately address these problems when we exclude the unique talents, differing perspectives, and creative solutions that could be offered by the women and persons of color who remain so under-represented in science, technology, engineering, and math in our nation.

Hence, diversifying our disciplines is an imperative.

As dean of the Hajim School, I am committed to:

  • increasing the diversity of our students, staff, and faculty;
  • creating policies, programs, and opportunities to ensure that women and those traditionally underrepresented in engineering are treated equitably;
  • and, above all, supporting everyone with a spirit of genuine inclusivity.

We have reached some gratifying benchmarks. Our Department of Biomedical Engineering, for example, has achieved gender equity not only among its faculty but its undergraduates. Our Department of Computer Science is now well above national averages for percentage of women undergraduates. (Read more here about the history of our growth in women students overall.) And all of our departments have established Diversity and Equity committees consisting of faculty members, staff, students, and alumni working together to help us achieve our goals.

During the last two years, as part of our Celebration 2020 and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion observances, we have profiled 51 of our faculty, staff, and alumni. These are noteworthy women and underrepresented minorities, primarily, who serve as outstanding role models or have contributed greatly to our efforts. We have done so not only to celebrate their achievements, but to remind us of what we continue to forfeit as long this underrepresentation persists in our school and in STEM fields in general. We are proud to present these role models below.

We have much work to do. I urge all members of our Hajim community, in the spirit of Meliora, to join me in this all-important quest.

Your dean,
Wendi Heinzelman
November 24, 2021

First women graduates

Bessey and Doell

Marie Bessey and Norma Doell overcame long-held stereotypes to become the first women to graduate with engineering degrees from the University of Rochester in 1939. Read more here. And click here for a list of other first graduates and PhD recipients by department and program, Hall of Fame athletes, award winners, and Visiting Committee members.

Faculty, staff, and alumni


  • Jennifer Allen ’97 ’10 MBA: Chairs the board of trustees of the Young Women’s College Prep (YWCP) Charter School of Rochester, which graduates 97 percent of the 7th through 12th grade City School District students it accepts. Allen also enjoys mentoring undergraduates at the Hajim School as a Real Reader.
  • Miguel Alonso: Professor of optics, a leading expert in theoretical optics, recipient of the Edward Peck Curtis Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching. Students marvel at his ability to enter a classroom with just chalk and a mug of coffee and start filling four walls of blackboards with equations—without once having to refer to notes.
  • Mercy Asiedu ’14: An inaugural recipient of the Patrick J. McGovern Tech for Humanity Changemakers award, Asiedu is founder of two start-up companies that use advances in machine learning to provide preventative and diagnostic health care to chronic disease victims in sub-Sahara Africa.
  • Delali Attiogbe Attipoe ’03: As chief operating officer of 54Gene, Attipoe is helping close a critical gap in our understanding of the genomic drivers of disease by compiling phenotypic and genetic information from the world’s most diverse populations in Africa.
  • Danielle Benoit: Professor of biomedical engineering and director of the Materials Science Program. Benoit, an expert in therapeutic biomaterials for tissue regeneration and targeted delivery of therapeutics, is also recipient of the College Award for Undergraduate Teaching and Research Mentorship.


  • Julie Bentley '90 '92M '96PhD: Associate professor of optics and first woman instructional track faculty member in the Hajim School. Bentley is an internationally recognized expert in lens design and recipient of the Goergen Award for Excellence in Teaching.
  • Mark Buckley: Associate professor biomedical engineering. Buckley forges collaborations across the university to find new ways to treat diseases and injuries to soft biological tissues. He has an outstanding record of welcoming underrepresented minority students in his lab.
  • Jaime Cardenas: Assistant professor of optics. Cardenas creates nanoscale and quantum optical devices with microfabrication techniques. He is an outstanding mentor who puts high priority on giving his students the foundation to achieve great things in their careers.
  • Laurel Carney: MaryLou Ingram Professor of Biomedical Engineering and an expert in the physiology and psychophysics of hearing. Carney is an outstanding mentor of colleagues in the art of grant writing and is the recipient of multiple teaching awards.
  • Tanzeem Choudhury '97: The professor of information science at Cornell University is a leading researcher in novel wearable and mobile systems and an outspoken advocate for gender equity.


  • Sally Child: The former senior lab associate for Edwin Carstensen and Diane Dalecki mentored numerous students--increasing numbers of whom were women--during a 52-year career. She is an expert in the biological effects of ultrasound. Her name appears on nearly 70 journal articles.
  • Diane Dalecki: Holds the Kevin J. Parker Distinguished Professorship in Biomedical Engineering and is chair of biomedical engineering and director of the Rochester Center for Biomedical Ultrasound. Dalecki is an expert in the use of ultrasound for tissue engineering. She designed the curriculum for the BME program in its infancy.
  • Peter Delfyett ‘83MS: The University of Central Florida Trustee Chair Professor of Optics, ECE & Physics, Delfyett is an expert in semiconductor lasers and recipient of multiple awards, including election to the National Academy of Engineering. He has served two terms as president of the National Society of Black Physicists.
  • Marvin Doyley: As the newly appointed chair of electrical and computer engineering, Doyley provided positive leadership in pivoting to hybrid models of teaching during COVID-19. He is a staunch advocate for diversity, equity, and inclusion, and an expert in ultrasound and elastography imaging to detect diseases.
  • Sandhya Dwarkadas: The Albert Arendt Hopeman Professor of Engineering was the first woman chair of computer science at Rochester. Dwarkadas was instrumental in securing the department's participation in the BRAID initiative, leading to increased enrollment of women and minorities. She is an expert in parallel and distributed computing systems.


  • Joan Ewing '67M '73PhD: The first woman PhD graduate in engineering at Rochester, Ewing was a former principal scientist at Xerox and an advocate for hearing disabled persons.
  • Cindy Gary: As assistant dean for grants and contracts, Gary has helped the Hajim School maintain a robust research portfolio in a tough climate for federal funding. She excels at orchestrating multi-investigator, multi-discipline, multi-institution proposals, and launched a CAREER award boot camp for junior faculty. Gary is a recipient of the Edmund A. Hajim Outstanding Staff Award.
  • Sheryl Gracewski: The emeritus professor of mechanical engineering and biomedical engineering was the first woman tenured faculty member in engineering at Rochester and the first woman recipient of the Hajim School Lifetime Achievement Award. Gracewski, an expert in modeling the interaction of ultrasound with bubbles and stones in biological fluids and tissues, also was faculty advisor for the Baja SAE student team for several years.
  • Marty Guenther: The first undergraduate coordinator for Department of Computer Science was instrumental in helping the department attract women undergraduates to a field in which they have been traditionally underrepresented. Guenther was a staunch advocate of study abroad and recipient of the Hajim School Outstanding Staff Award.
  • Jeanine Hayes '92: The Hajim School Distinguished Alumnae recipient has thrived at leading teams and scaling innovative ideas at Internet start-ups and iconic global companies, such as Yahoo! and NIKE. She relishes opportunities to talk to students about her career and offer advice.


  • Wendi Heinzelman: The first woman dean of the Hajim School and former AS&E dean of graduate students is co-founder of Networking Networking Women (N2 Women), the first organization of its kind supporting women in networking and communications. Heinzelman is an expert in wireless communication systems and protocols.
  • Sharon Hoffman-Manning '79: The former director of Johnson&Johnson's global supply chain has also served as operations consultant with IZBA. She has served in several leadership roles for CASA, which trains volunteers to help judges develop a fuller picture of a neglected or abused child’s home life, schooling, and health care needs..
  • Susan Houde-Walter '83 '87PhD: The first woman tenured faculty member of the Institute of Optics is a former president of OSA (now Optica) and the CEO of LMD Power of Light Corp. The company produces field-ready quantum cascade lasers, solid state lasers and diode lasers for life-saving applications such as beacons, markers, aiming devices, and improved communications.
  • Marylou Ingram '47MD: An innovative researcher in cytometry, radiation biology, cellular biology, and immunology, Ingram was a role model for women in STEM and a generous benefactor supporting fellowships and a professorship in the Department of Biomedical Engineering.
  • Melodie Lawton: The assistant professor of instruction in chemical engineering brings strong industry and academic research experience to her teaching. Lawton helped create new ways to conduct student labs and senior design projects remotely during COVID-19.


  • Amy Lerner: The associate professor of biomedical engineering was the first female faculty member appointed to the department. Lerner has created a model senior design program and helps direct the department's innovative medical design master's program. She also co-chairs the Commission on Women and Gender Equity in Academia and is a recipient of the Goergen Teaching Award.
  • Diane Litman '82M '86PhD: The professor of computer science at University of Pittsburgh was first woman PhD recipient in computer science at Rochester. Litman is a leader in artificial intelligence, computational linguistics, and other areas of computer science.
  • Gonzalo Mateos: The associate professor of electrical and computer engineering is an emerging leader in using computational tools to understand networks as diverse as social media, power grids, and the human brain. Mateos works actively with the Goergen Institute of Data Science to forge new research collaborations.
  • Beauclaire Mbanya ’20: Only the third University of Rochester Rhodes Scholar, Mbanya is also a Schwarzman Scholar who is guided by deeply ingrained values and beliefs that he learned while growing up in Cameroon, Africa.
  • Theophano Mitsa '88M '91PhD: As a PhD student, Mitsa co-invented Blue Noise Mask, one of the most lucrative inventions in University of Rochester history. She is a consultant, author, and managing member of Aretisoft LLC


  • Lisa Norwood '86, '95 (MW): The long-time Hajim School assistant dean for undergraduate studies was the architect of the award-winning STEM-Gems program to retain underrepresented minority engineering students. Now retired, she was the recipient of the University Witmer Award, the Dottie Welch Award, and the Hajim School Outstanding Staff Award for unceasing efforts to attract and retain women and minority students in engineering.
  • Diana Nyyssonen '75PhD: The first woman PhD graduate at the Institute of Optics helped reorient the metrology direction of the semiconductor industry as a researcher at the National Bureau of Standards.
  • Beth Olivares: As the Kearns Center executive director, Olivares has directed successful Upward Bound, McNairs Scholar, and summer research programs that have benefited first-generation, low-income, minority, and women undergraduates. As the University's dean for diversity in Arts, Sciences & Engineering, she leads efforts to foster an inclusive climate.
  • Rohan Palma: The study abroad counselor and global initiatives coordinator has been key in opening up study abroad opportunities for our students. Palma understands, from his own experiences, the pressures that first-generation, underrepresented minority students face in STEM programs.
  • Donna Porcelli: The former graduate program coordinator in the Department of Biomedical Engineering brought much-needed administrative knowledge to the department when it began. Porcelli was a recipient of the University Witmer Award and the Hajim School Outstanding Staff Award.


  • Shawn Rochester ’97: The chemical engineering alumnus has skillfully documented the staggering, pervasive tax driven by conscious and unconscious anti-Black bias that continues to prevent Black Americans from accumulating wealth in proportion to their contributions and population.
  • Sean Rodrigues ’12: The senior scientist at Toyota leads projects that advance the development of autonomous vehicle systems. Rodrigues took full advantage of his opportunities as an undergraduate here. “Rochester taught me I can do any engineering,” he says.
  • Jannick Rolland: The Brian J. Thompson Professor of Optical Engineering and director of the Center for Freeform Optics is also co-founder of LighTopTech. Rolland is a recipient of the Edmund A. Hajim Outstanding Faculty Award and is a recognized pioneer in augmented and virtual reality.
  • Katie Schwertz '08: The senior design engineer at Edmund Optics and director of SPIE, the International Society for Optics and Photonics, is a rising leader in the field and an outspoken advocate for gender equity.


  • Mario Simpson ’99: As a member of our Hajim School Visiting Committee and the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering Industrial Advisory Board, Simpson raises questions we need to address about diversity, equity, and inclusion, and the relevance of our curriculum to industry needs. Simpson also mentors students as a volunteer Real Reader.
  • Louise Slaughter: The former 16-term congresswoman was a champion of arts and the humanities, a crusader for jobs and technology, and a forceful advocate for women. Slaughter was a staunch supporter of programs vital to the University and the Hajim School.
  • Christopher Stewart ‘05MS ‘08PhD: A pioneer in the modeling of computer operating systems to make data centers more efficient, Steward is an associate professor in computer science at Ohio State University. He has overcome long odds in a field where people of color remain woefully underrepresented. Stewart enjoyed a positive PhD experience at Rochester.
  • Donna Strickland '89PhD: The University of Waterloo professor was a co-recipient of the 2018 Nobel Prize in Physics for helping to develop "chirped pulse amplification" while completing her PhD in optics at Rochester. The technology has harnessed the power of lasers as precision tools, paving the way for laser-eye surgery, the machining of key parts for cell phones and other devices, tools for cancer treatment, and other clinical and commercial applications.


  • Tim Talley ’88: His remarkable path from electrical engineering to marketing and entrepreneurship included a bargain struck with a professor to get his degree. Talley wooed a national TV audience and a panel of celebrity investors with a flawless pitch for his dual-patented modular, no-tie sneaker laces on CBS’ Shark Tank program.
  • Theresa Tuthill '84 '87M '91PhD: This outstanding scholar athlete was the first woman full-time faculty member at University of Dayton's engineering school. Tuthill is now senior director of imaging at Pfizer Inc.
  • Nick Valentino: As an academic counselor and STEM-Gem program director, Valentino oversees Hajim School programs to attract and retain underrepresented minority students. He draws from his own undergraduate experiences to connect with students.
  • Alexis Vogt '00 '08PhD: The Monroe Community College associate professor has reinvigorated the school's Optical Systems Technology Program to address an acute shortage in the technical workforce of an industry vital to Rochester and the nation.


  • Charity Wallace ’09: The “tough” four years Wallace spent as a first-generation undergraduate at Rochester “toughened her up” for the journey to her position as principal research associate at one of the world’s leading biotech companies. Wallace is a dedicated Real Reader mentor for Hajim School undergraduates.
  • Sharon Weiss '99 '01M '05PhD: The professor of electrical engineering at Vanderbilt University and director of the Vanderbilt Institute of Nanoscale Science and Engineering is an expert in the use of silicon in photonics and optoelectronics. She has also been recognized for excellence in teaching.
  • Dottie Welch: The Department of Biomedical Engineering's first undergraduate coordinator set the standard for working with students. This prompted the Hajim School to establish an annual award in her name for staff members "whose performance and dedication enriches the student experience in the tradition exemplified by Dottie Welch."
  • Michele R. Weslander Quaid '94M: Served as Google's chief evangelist and CTO for its public-sector division. Weslander Quaid was named among the "7 most powerful women to watch" in 2014 by Entrepreneur magazine for her work in national defense after 9/11.