Bevlee Watford, associate dean of academic affairs at Virginia Tech's College of Engineering, has been named interim department head of the college's engineering education department.

Watford will fill a vacancy left by O. Hayden Griffin Jr., who left at the end of this academic year to become head of the Engineering Program at East Carolina University in Greenville, N.C.

Griffin joined the Virginia Tech community in 1985, has served as head of the engineering education department since 1997. In addition to his many administrative duties, he has continued to teach and advise students in a variety of ways, and also serves as director of the Joseph F. Ware Jr. Advanced Engineering Laboratory.

“Bev will lead the department in the 2010/2011 academic year as we seek to fill Hayden Griffin’s large shoes. It will be a national search, and I will move quickly to form the search committee,” said Richard C. Benson, dean of the College of Engineering.

Watford is a longtime Hokie. She earned a bachelor’s degree in mining engineering in 1981, and master’s and Ph.D. degrees in industrial engineering and operations research in 1983 and 1985, respectively, all from Virginia Tech. Her research focuses on the recruitment and retention of engineering students, particularly those from under-represented groups. She has served as associate dean of academic affairs since 1997, and is director of the Center for the Enhancement of Engineering Diversity.

“Our engineering education department is uniquely positioned as an organization on the leading edge of the field,” Watford said. “I am looking forward to working with the faculty and staff to continue their efforts to define engineering education in the areas of both research and practice.”

Watford joined the College of Engineering’s Dean’s Office in 1992. In 1996, she 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, she received the Charles A. Tunstall Outstanding Minority Engineering Program Award from the National Society for Black Engineers (NSBE) for her significant contributions to the success of African-American students at Virginia Tech, and the National Technical Association selected her as one of the 50 Top Minority Women in Science & Engineering.

Watford received the national Black Engineer of the Year /College Level Educator award in 2002. She received the 2008 Founders Award from the Women in Engineering ProActive Network for her efforts to support the organization and its mission. In 2009, she was named the Distinguished Alumna of Virginia Tech’s Mining and Minerals Engineering Department.

In 2004, Watford was a principal investigator on a $2 million National Science Foundation (NSF) Science and Technology Expansion Program, a five-year grant to Virginia Tech’s College of Engineering for expansion of its undergraduate mentoring and retention programs. More recently, she secured a $600,000 NSF grant to provide scholarships for incoming freshmen and transfer students.

From 2005 until 2007, Watford was on temporary assignment with NSF’s Division of Undergraduate Education ( Housed within NSF’s Education and Human Resources Directorate, the division’s current programs represent a comprehensive approach to strengthening science, technology, engineering and math education at two and four-year colleges and universities.

Just this month, Watford was named as a Fellow Member by the American Society for Engineering Education in recognition of her outstanding contributions to the society. The 2010 induction of Fellows will take place at the Annual Awards Banquet on June 23 in Louisville, Ky.

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