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2018 Climate and Diversity Awards
31 October 2019
Kritin Dreyer, Latisha Franklin and Eric Hudson

On Friday, January 11, 2019, members of the Eberly College of Science community gathered to recognize three individuals who have displayed extraordinary commitment to enhancing the environment of mutual respect and diversity in the college over the past year. The college’s Climate and Diversity Awards, sponsored by its Climate and Diversity Committee, are presented at an annual ceremony in recognition of the efforts of faculty, staff, and students who improve the climate and diversity of the college.

The Climate and Diversity Committee, which celebrates its 20th anniversary this year, chose three winners from 32 total nominations: Eric Hudson, Kristin Dreyer, and Latisha Franklin.

Hudson, associate professor of physics, was nominated by Nitin Samarth, professor and George A. and Margaret M. Downsbrough Department Head of physics. Samarth praised Hudson’s “proactive role in creating a welcoming, inclusive environment in the department and within the broader Penn State community.”

Hudson acts as the associate head for diversity and equity in the Department of Physics, the chair of the Diversity Committee for the Center for Nanoscale Science, and the director of education, outreach, and diversity programs for the 2D Crystal Consortium. He serves on recruitment/admissions and faculty search committees, initiates conversations with all members of the department, and participates as a faculty mentor of physics graduate students. In all of these roles, Hudson promotes diversity and inclusion and helps ensure that all voices are heard.

Hudson also reaches out to department heads and graduate-education staff at minority-serving institutions and women’s colleges to encourage undergraduates with physics degrees to consider enrollment at Penn State. He builds relationships with high-diversity high schools in Pennsylvania and serves as faculty advisor of the graduate student–led Physics Outreach Program, which provides opportunities for graduate students to give recruiting talks aimed at increasing applications from underrepresented populations.

“Eric has had a direct, positive impact on climate, diversity, and inclusion within the Penn State community and even at the national scale,” said Samarth. “He carries out these responsibilities with limitless energy, deep passion, exuberant enthusiasm, and genuine concern.”

Dreyer, program director of education and outreach at the Center for Nanoscale Science, was nominated by Kirstin Purdy Drew, associate teaching professor of physics. During her seven years with the center, a U.S. National Science Foundation–funded Materials Research Science and Engineering Center (MRSEC), Dreyer has coordinated events to help underrepresented groups at all levels—from high school to graduate school—engage with STEM material.

Dreyer played a prominent role in developing, and continues to help organize, the now-annual STEM Open House Graduate Recruitment event, which focuses on fostering a diverse body of prospective graduate student applicants in the sciences. She used a Penn State Equal Opportunity Planning Committee grant to create and develop a summer “welcome workshop” for incoming undergraduate students in the Eberly College of Science and the College of Engineering, providing a diverse group of students with an exercise in inclusion and acceptance.

Dreyer is also part of the leadership team for the new STEM extension of Penn State’s annual Summer Academy for Students who are Blind or Visually Impaired. Additionally, she recently organized a “diversity in materials” workshop, in which attendees discussed the state of diversity in the sciences at Penn State. 

“She has played a critical role in many climate and diversity activities here at Penn State that now, in part, exist because of her contributions on behalf of the MRSEC,” said Purdy Drew. “But her contributions reach far beyond the center.”

Franklin, graduate student in the Biochemistry, Microbiology, and Molecular Biology (BMMB) program, was nominated by fellow BMMB graduate student Lynnicia Massenburg. Massenburg stated that Franklin “puts her heart and soul into her community service” and that “her efforts in pursuing diversity and inclusiveness are far reaching.”

In 2018, Franklin founded the Minority Graduate Students in STEM group, which organizes a monthly roundtable with an invited speaker to discuss topics on diversity and inclusion. She is also the committee co-chair of the Graduate Women in Science group’s annual VOICES conference. For this year’s conference, with the theme of “Take Action,” Franklin has reached out to a diverse array of scientists to participate, regardless of gender, race, or disability.

Franklin is also the planning committee chair and host of the Celebration of Black Lives, an annual event run by the Black Graduate Student Association. She also serves as treasurer for the association and helped to organize a football-centered fundraising campaign to support the Celebration of Black Lives.

Franklin is the recipient of an Alfred P. Sloan Foundation minority scholarship that aims to diversify the Ph.D.-holding workforce in the U.S. and change the demographics of STEM faculty at U.S. colleges and universities. When asked about her commitment to promoting diversity and inclusion in the STEM fields at Penn State, Franklin stated, “If I didn’t do it, it wouldn’t be me.”