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Mount Holyoke College News and Events Vista The College Street Journal Archives

February 8, 2002

Browne Wins Institute on Teaching and Mentoring Award

Sheila Ewing Browne (fourth from right) poses with graduate students she has mentored at the Institute on Teaching and Mentoring's eighth annual meeting in Atlanta in October. She holds an engraved plaque she received after being named Faculty Mentor of the Year.

Chemistry professor Sheila Ewing Browne can't find time to post a Web page about herself, but she makes time for a Web page with links to Finding Internships, Information on Women and Minorities in Science and Engineering, and Sistahs in Science—all links of interest to students, especially students of color, who are pursuing careers in the sciences. Putting students first makes sense for Browne, who has spent much of her twenty-five years at Mount Holyoke mentoring students in independent research projects. Browne was honored for this extraordinary commitment to students all over New England in 1998, when she received the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Mentoring. The award, administered for the White House by the National Science Foundation, identifies outstanding mentoring efforts and programs designed to enhance the participation of groups underrepresented in science, mathematics, and engineering. In October 2001 Browne was recognized once again, this time with the Faculty Mentor of the Year Award from the Institute on Teaching and Mentoring.

The Institute on Teaching and Mentoring is part of the national Compact for Faculty Diversity, formed in 1994 by the New England Board of Higher Education, the Southern Regional Educational Board, and the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education to increase the number of students of color earning doctoral degrees and entering faculty careers at colleges and universities. By offering mentoring, professional development, training in teaching practices, support for career preparation and placement, and access to a national network of minority doctoral scholars and faculty mentors, the compact has served more than 525 scholars and produced more than 175 graduates. With nine years of mentoring students of color at institutions across the Northeast, Sheila Ewing Browne has been a big part of that success.

"Sheila has seen it all," said JoAnn Moody, former vice president of the New England Board of Higher Education. "She is an irreplaceable mentor-at-large for various U.S. minority graduate students I work with. The toughest times that my students face—usually impasses with their faculty research supervisors—call out for Sheila's advice. She has always been candid and helpful to me and my students as we brainstorm about how to resolve or shrink these impasses. Her attitude is that we will find a way and that the student will successfully move beyond this obstacle. . . . I also have had several opportunities to talk with Mount Holyoke alumnae from minority and majority backgrounds who have worked with Sheila while they were in college. To a person, they regard her as an magnificently enabling and empowering teacher and mentor."

Maronda V. Brown '91 sought Browne's guidance five years after graduation, during a "far less than favorable" graduate experience when she was questioning her future in the sciences. She wrote, "During a very difficult time in my life, Sheila shared her challenges in academe, helped me gain perspective, and reinforced all of the positive reasons I chose a career in science. With her guidance, encouragement, and support I managed to continue in science, and excel." Brown is now a research scientist at Amersham Biosciences and teaches biology at Middlesex County College in New Jersey. She repays her mentor by assisting young women at crossroads in their academic careers. "To this day, this is how I continually thank Sheila, because I realize the depth and impact of her actions in my life. Not only is she a mentor, she is a friend."

Browne received her mentoring award at the institute's eighth annual meeting in Atlanta, where she delivered the talk "Becoming a Champion for Diversity" to a faculty audience and "Finding the Faculty Position for You" to a student audience. She was shocked to receive the award. "I knew the past winners, all of whom were really outstanding," she said modestly. "I was so honored to be nominated by students and to be recognized along with those who earned their Ph.D.'s this year," she said.

Browne was the first member of her family to graduate from high school. She earned her bachelor of science degree from the University of Tennessee and completed her doctorate at the University of California at Berkeley, where she was one of only two women and the only person of Native American heritage in her entering Ph.D. class of 140.

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