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MHC’s Browne Recipient of Lifetime Mentor Award

  Sheila Browne
Sheila Browne

Sheila Browne, Bertha Phillips Rodger Professor of Chemistry, 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 to mentoring students for more than 25 years 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.”

“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.”

Coming from a poor family in Appalachia, Browne, who is part Cherokee, knows firsthand the difficulties women and other minorities face in science education. And she knows the difference a mentor can make in overcoming those adversities. Browne’s organic chemistry professor at the University of Tennessee, Dr. John Larsen, asked her to join his research group and under his guidance she 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."

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. “I enjoy helping people, and it’s a privilege to work here—the student are fantastic,” said Browne, who 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 helped found Sistahs in Science, which is funded through a GE grant.

“One person can make all the difference,” said Browne, who has helped students in many different ways, from helping them to find money to pay for books to buying winter coats for students from warm climates. “What every student needs is different. It’s a matter of caring and putting it together, finding a way to make it work.”

“It is not possible to count the number of students who have said, ‘I would have quit if it wasn’t for Sheila,’ ” Campbell said. “The tributes are numerous and, in many cases, deeply moving. Students come to her for encouragement and support, which they certainly get, along with much more. Sheila’s influence has set up student networks and given our graduates the desire to go out and to do the same kind of good in the world.”

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

On the MHC Web:

View Sheila Browne’s Faculty Profile

News & Events Index

Related Link:

American Association for the Advancement of Science



Copyright © 2006 Mount Holyoke College. This page created and maintained by Office of Communications. Last modified on June 13, 2006.