Mount Holyoke Professor Wins AAAS Lifetime Mentor Award

Sheila Browne to be honored for increasing number of women with Ph.D.s in chemistry

For Immediate Release
November 9, 2005

Contact Allison Gillis

South Hadley, MA--Sheila Browne, Bertha Phillips Rodger Professor of Chemistry at Mount Holyoke College, was chosen as the recipient of this year's Lifetime Mentor Award by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) for her dedication of more than 25 years to mentoring students and for increasing the number of women with Ph.D.s in chemistry. The AAAS honors individuals who demonstrate "extraordinary leadership to increase the participation of underrepresented groups in science and engineering fields and careers." Browne has worked to increase the number of women, and especially minorities, in the fields of science through mentoring students at Mount Holyoke as well as with the New England Board of Higher Education network.

"I was amazed when I heard about the award," Browne said. "It's a truly great honor to be chosen among all scientists, not just chemists."

Since coming to Mount Holyoke in 1976, Browne has mentored more than 83 students during their independent research projects, more than 40 percent of whom were women of color. Browne also starting giving faculty workshops on mentoring minority students eight years ago to increase the number of mentors at the College. To increase peer and mentoring support for minority students, Browne also helped found the student group Sistahs in Science, which is funded through a GE grant.

"Nothing short of superlatives can adequately express how much Sheila Browne deserves honor and recognition for her mentoring activities," said Mary Campbell, professor emeritus of chemistry, who nominated Browne for the award. "She has done so much for so many students at Mount Holyoke, around the country, and around the world." Browne has assisted students in many different ways, from helping them to find money to pay for books to buying winter coats for students from warm climates.

Coming from a poor family in Appalachia, Browne, who is part Cherokee, knows firsthand the difficulties women and other minorities face in science education. Under the guidance of her organic chemistry professor, Dr. John Larsen, at the University of Tennessee, Browne went on to graduate school at the University of California. "When I arrived at the University of Tennessee I did not even know what graduate school was. Without Dr. Larsen, I would never have gone to graduate school."

Browne will accept the award at the AAAS Annual Meeting in St. Louis in February.