White House Names Karen Thole Among Champions of Change for Girls and Women in STEM

Dec 7, 2011

by Michael MacRae ASME.org

NEW YORK, Dec. 7, 2011 – On Friday, Dec. 9, twelve local leaders in the effort to recruit and retain girls and women in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields will be honored at the White House as Champions of Change. Among them will be ASME Fellow Karen A. Thole, Ph.D., P.E., professor of mechanical engineering and head of the Department of Mechanical and Nuclear Engineering at the Pennsylvania State University.

The men and women being honored, who include teachers, industry leaders, students, and non-profit leaders, have each taken great strides to reduce the barriers that drive many girls and women to turn away from high-paying, highly rewarding careers as the nation’s top innovators.

To watch this event live, visit www.whitehouse.gov/live at 3:30 pm ET Dec. 9.

“These ‘Champions of Change’ are community heroes, helping to build the ranks of women in the nation’s STEM workforce and ensuring that America’s science and engineering enterprise is fueled by the diverse talents of all of its citizens,” said Dr. John Holdren, assistant to the president for Science and Technology and director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. “The bold work of these Champions epitomizes the president’s vision of an ‘all hands on deck’ effort by government, academia, non-profits, and industry to maintain America’s leadership in STEM fields for decades to come.”

The Champions of Change program was created as a part of President Barack Obama’s Winning the Future initiative. Each week, a different issue is highlighted and groups of Champions, ranging from educators to entrepreneurs to community activists, are recognized for the work they are doing to better their communities.

Engineering has historically had low enrollments of women and other underrepresented groups in the discipline. Dr. Thole, along with colleagues, established an Engineering Ambassadors Program that empowers female students majoring in engineering with advanced communication skills in using the messages of Changing the Conversation to recruit high school girls into the discipline.

The Engineering Ambassadors teach high school students, their parents, and their teachers that engineering can improve the health, happiness, and safety of everyday lives. Through support by the United Technologies Corporation, the Engineering Ambassadors Program has grown to include programs at four universities that reach high school students throughout the Northeast.

Thole started her academic career in 1995 developing expertise in gas turbine engines, which power aircraft and produce energy. She works closely with industry and the U.S. Department of Energy to determine innovative ways to cool key components of these engines.

Since joining ASME in 1994, Thole has served on the Center for Education board; a member of the ASME International Gas Turbine Institute; associated editor of the Journal of Turbomachinery, and a member of the Vision 2030 committee. Currently, Dr. Thole serves as chair of the ASME Committee on Honors.

About ASME
ASME helps the global engineering community develop solutions to real world challenges. Founded in 1880 as the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, ASME is a not-for-profit professional organization that enables collaboration, knowledge sharing and skill development across all engineering disciplines, while promoting the vital role of the engineer in society. ASME codes and standards, publications, conferences, continuing education and professional development programs provide a foundation for advancing technical knowledge and a safer world.

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