Honoring Aggie Women: Vanguards Of Progress And Pioneers Of Innovation

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By Texas A&M University President Michael K. Young

Last month, on International Women’s Day, we honored and celebrated women around the world for their monumental accomplishments and life-altering contributions to society. As catalysts for change, their courageousness, ingenuity and selflessness impacts our world for the better – today and every day.

Women are striving across every discipline to ensure a cleaner, safer, smarter, better future for our nation and planet. Texas A&M’s impact is visible like never before through countless examples, such as the research of chemical oceanographer Dr. Katie Shamberger, who is working to preserve coral reefs in Palau, and former student Ilya Espino de Marotta ’85, who is leading engineering efforts at the Panama Canal, to name a few. The efforts of Aggie women past and present have led to amazing discoveries and innovations that can be felt across every industry, in pockets all around the globe. And they have contributed to the cultivation of a campus community that is guided by principles of diversity, equality and inclusion. A community that embraces and benefits from one another’s differences, rather than rejects them.

All great change begins with a catalyst. In 1963, that catalyst was former student James Earl Rudder, who, as president of the university, spearheaded educational integration efforts across the South that led to Texas A&M opening its doors to African Americans and formally admitting women. This fearless, transformational endeavor would forever set a new course for this world-class university. Although late to the game on such a landmark decision, Texas A&M has since committed great energies to inclusion, and we are proud of the significant progress we have to show for our efforts.

And what a difference a half century has made. Women now account for almost half of the more than 60,000 students at Texas A&M, and last year we were ranked among 50 U.S. institutions as one of the Best Colleges and Universities for Women. Texas A&M is ranked 1st in Texas and 12th nationally in graduating the most women in STEM programs.

From our leadership to the student body, we continue to make strides toward overcoming gender inequality. In fact, the deans of every single STEM college are women, including Dr. Meigan Aronson, College of Science; Dr. M. Katherine Banks, College of Engineering; Dr. Pamela R. Matthews, College of Liberal Arts; Dr. Carrie Byington, College of Medicine; and Dr. Eleanor Green, College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. DebbieThomas is serving as interim dean of the College of Geosciences and is accomplished STEM scholar in her own right.  And we are marking a major milestone this school year, as the top three student-leadership positions are all held by women, including Hannah Wimberly, Student Body President; Claire Wimberly, Senior Class President; and Cecille Sorio, Commander of the Corps of Cadets. We hope these posts and more inspire young undergraduates to challenge the status quo and aspire to their fullest potential.

Today, our biggest catalyst remains our faculty and staff, who have dedicated their lives to shaping students into leaders of consequence and global citizens of substance. As teachers, mentors, innovators and role models, our female educators are a driving force of this university, imparting a lasting impact on the character and culture of Texas A&M, now and in the future.

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