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Henderson earns champion award

Douglass Henderson and Margaret Harrigan have been selected as winners of the 2011 Champion Awards, presented by the Women's Philanthropy Council (WPC) of the University of Wisconsin Foundation at the council's biennial forum on Nov. 2.

The awards recognize UW-Madison faculty and staff members who have made a difference for women on campus. Henderson is a UW-Madison professor of engineering physics and faculty director of the College of Engineering's Graduate Engineering Research Scholars (GERS) program. Harrigan is a senior policy and planning analyst in the university's Office of Academic Planning & Analysis.

Henderson was selected for his role with the GERS, where through his recruitment efforts and ongoing mentorship, UW-Madison has grown to graduate the highest percentage of women-of-color PhDs among the nation's top 20 engineering programs. Harrigan was honored for her work on behalf of women faculty and staff, particularly her role as the key analytical mind behind UW-Madison's gender pay-equity studies.

Each could designate a $5,000 grant to a UW-Madison program. Henderson, who was honored by President Barack Obama earlier this year with a Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics, Engineering Mentoring, directed his grant to the GERS program. Harrigan designated her grant to academic staff professional development. 

The WPC, founded in 1988, pioneered new national standards for women as philanthropists, and it is the first major-gift organization for women at a co-ed institution of higher education. Gifts from council members made the awards possible.

"It is very satisfying to receive this award for the GERS program," Henderson says. "GERS was created through a collaborative effort among the College of Engineering administrative leadership, the UW-Madison Graduate School and the College of Engineering faculty. The collaboration was necessary in order for the program to be successful.

"When we started the program, one of the goals we articulated was to increase the number of minority graduate students achieving PhD degrees in engineering," he says. "For me, receiving the Champion Award means recognition for achieving our goal. It is particularly satisfying to see that we are graduating women of color at a much higher rate than their male counterparts. This is an important accomplishment in order to transform higher education and industry through more diverse leadership."

For her part, Harrigan says, "I am thrilled to be receiving the [award]. I really admire the past champions recognized by the council, and it is an honor to be in their company."

Earlier winners were: Jeff Hamm and Lindsey Stoddard Cameron in 2005; Richard Barrows and Jennifer Sheridan in 2007; and Dennis Dresang and Jo Handelsman in 2009.

Henderson is committed to increasing the representation of women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. "The representation of women in these fields is low, particularly for minority women," he says. "The women who achieve success through their doctoral research are not only excellent role models for the younger generation; they are poised to become the leaders of tomorrow.

Kelly Burton, student services coordinator and advisor to students in GERS, nominated Henderson for the award and praised his leadership.

"In addition to being a faculty researcher, Doug commits a significant portion of his time to the GERS program for minority graduate recruitment and retention," Burton says. "When we are at conferences, representatives from other schools often stop by our booth and make comments like, 'Doug, every time I see you at one of these conferences, I am amazed at your commitment, to be a faculty member and then to commit as you do to efforts like this ... it's amazing.' It is amazing - and it makes a difference to our students. They all know there is a voice for them among the faculty."

Since its inception, the GERS program has graduated 42 PhDs and 46 master's recipients in engineering. Of the 42 doctoral graduates, 25 were women. "In a discipline dominated by men, this statistic is significant," Burton says. According to National Science Foundation data for 2004-2006, the GERS program was third in the nation in underrepresented minority women earning PhDs. Of the top 25 engineering programs, UW-Madison has the highest percentage of PhDs awarded to minority women at 3.7 percent from 2004-2006; the national average is 1.5 percent. 

Jocelyn Milner, associate provost and director of Academic Planning and Analysis, wrote in nominating Harrigan for the award: "It is no exaggeration to say that Margaret Harrigan has had a contributing role in almost every salary base adjustment received by a women faculty member at UW-Madison over the past 20 years. Since 1990, Margaret has provided us all with an analytical perspective on faculty and staff, and most of those analyses include trends by gender and racial/ethnic heritage demographics.

"As the policy analyst who has been dedicated to studying gender salary equity over the past two decades, she has worked with a series of committees and campus leaders to develop policy and practice that is aimed at assuring pay equity," Milner wrote. "Margaret's sustained and consistent contributions have been indispensible to advancing the status of women faculty and staff at UW-Madison. Her wise and well-informed advice has been heeded by campus leaders for numerous policy and practice decisions. Her commitment is demonstrated in the impressive quality and quantity of her work. The overall reach of her influence touches women and men, faculty and staff, throughout the university community."

In designating her grant, Harrigan says, "Today, more than 7,200 academic staff work at UW-Madison, and more than 50 percent are women. Academic staff members play critical roles at the university - in instruction, outreach, research, student services and administration. Currently, professional development grants are awarded on a competitive basis to about 60 academic staff members per year. With this donation, more academic staff will be able to participate in professional development and improve their effectiveness at work." 

Chris DuPre
11/9/2011