Donna M. Riley – a professor of engineering education with affiliate appointments in the Department of Science and Technology in Society and the Women’s and Gender Studies program in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences – has been named interim head of the Department of Engineering Education in the College of Engineering at Virginia Tech. Riley follows Stephanie Adams, who will step down as department head on July 1 to serve as dean of engineering and technology at Old Dominion University.

“We are pleased to have Donna serve in this vital leadership role,” said Don Taylor, acting dean of the College of Engineering. “She is an experienced and dedicated educator who has given tremendous thought to the social and moral consequences of the work engineers do every day.”

Before joining Virginia Tech in 2014, Riley served as program director for engineering education at the National Science Foundation (NSF). Riley was also a founding faculty member of the first engineering program at a U.S. women’s college, the Picker Engineering Program at Smith College, a program combining the study of engineering with humanities, arts, and sciences.  

“Donna has built an international reputation for her work that challenges traditional boundaries and presses for a wid­­ening of the scope of research relevant to engineering education,” said Adams. “She has worked to infuse the study of social/political features of technological development into the teaching of core engineering requirements and successfully positioned herself at the center of some of the nation’s most important topics in engineering education.”

With an NSF CAREER Award in 2005, Riley focused on critical teaching methods in engineering education. Her research continues to concentrate on aspects of instruction including engineering ethics, social inequality in engineering education, the liberal education of engineers, and social justice and engineering. In 2012, she received the Sterling Olmsted Award from the American Society of Engineering Education “for distinguished contributions in the development and teaching of liberal arts in engineering education.”

She is the author of two books, "Engineering and Social Justiceand "Engineering Thermodynamics and 21st Century Energy Problems." She served two years as deputy editor of the Journal of Engineering Education and is one of the founding editors of the International Journal of Engineering, Social Justice, and Peace.

Riley earned a bachelor’s in chemical engineering from Princeton University in 1993 and master’s and doctoral degrees from Carnegie Mellon University in engineering and public policy in 1995 and 1998, respectively.

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