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School of Engineering

Kimberly Cook Chennault Awarded 2024 WEPAN Bevlee Watford Inclusive Excellence Award

Annual Women in Engineering ProActive Network (WEPAN) awards recognize people, programs, and organization for achievements that advance inclusion and diversity in education and professions.  

Two women pose together, one holding an award.
Prof. Cook at right poses with Bevlee Watford during the WEPAN award presentation.

Kimberly Cook Chennault, an associate professor in the  School of Engineering (SoE)Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Department and the associate dean of diversity, equity, and inclusive excellence research, is a 2024 recipient of WEPAN’s prestigious Bevlee Watford Inclusive Excellence Award for successfully supporting the success of women of color at undergraduate, graduate, faculty, and administrative levels.  

“Receiving an award for something that has meaning and value is always special. I’m grateful to be recognized for my contributions and for the work of the School of Engineering,” she says. “I’m also grateful for the school’s faculty, staff, and students who work hard to create a diverse and inclusive environment for our unique population and community.”  

She adds, “In many ways, this award is for our SoE community whose faculty and staff advocate for programs and initiatives to support all of our diverse students and staff. Students also contribute to this work and often initiate and bring voice to the challenges of others – and propose solutions to help bring about change. So, to me, this award is to them, as they bring about the changes they want to see in our school.” 

A Leader in DEI 

Cook Chennault describes her DEI role as one that guides and structures the process of diversification and inclusion within the school. “I work to support the success of students, faculty and staff by looking for the underserved, marginalized, and silenced groups within engineering, and more broadly within higher education in STEM, and by seeking them out to understand their experiences, challenges, and successes,” she explains. “Working to address the concerns of the most marginalized usually benefits all – not just the minoritized.” 

Her collaborative efforts ultimately help to bring about substantive changes in policies, identification of access gaps that lead to the provision of resources, programs, and opportunities.  

She reflects that being a woman of color herself means that while she is a member of many of the groups she advocates for, she also has a “profound empathy for those groups of which I am not a member.”  

For Cook Chennault, “being at the table where ideas for the vision of the school are discussed and problem solutions are troubleshot, I carry the voices of those who are not at the table.”  

She was presented with her WEPAN Bevlee Watford Inclusive Excellence Award on February 27, at the 2024 Collaborative Network for Engineering and Computing Diversity conference Award Banquet in Crystal City, Virginia.  

It’s an award that she says reflects her pride in “being a part of a positive evolution in engineering education” at SoE.