The University of Wisconsin-Madison has honored Manuela Romero, College of Engineering associate dean for undergraduate affairs, with the Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Leadership (College, School, or Larger University Community Level) for her achievements.
For many years, the College of Engineering used a two-step admissions process that left many frustrated. After two years of courses, some pre-engineering majors would learn that the programs they’d hoped to get into were not available to them.
Romero played a pivotal role in developing and implementing a new system in 2015 that allows first-year students to be admitted directly to the engineering department and the major they choose. The change has been hugely successful, boosting engineering retention rates, improving student satisfaction, and significantly increasing the number of women pursuing engineering degrees.
Romero’s work on the project captures her leadership excellence — a skillset that has consistently improved the success and well-being of students across the entire campus and even beyond UW–Madison. A hallmark of this leadership is a commitment to diversity and inclusion; she consistently and comprehensively integrates an equity lens into all aspects of her work and achievement.
One effort she led, training for faculty and staff in the College of Engineering called “Breaking the Bias Habit,” is now used by many other units, departments, schools and colleges on campus. Romero recognized the need to offer participation incentives and was instrumental in developing them. As a result, the college has seen a participation rate of more than 85% among faculty and almost 60% among staff.
Romero is among the nine UW–Madison academic staff members receiving 2021 Academic Staff Excellence Awards, which will be presented during an invitation-only virtual ceremony.