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Caroline Schauer, Margaret C. Burns Chair in Engineering

Endowed chair advances diversity, equity and inclusion

Burns Peggy
Margaret C. “Peggy” Burns ’79

Caroline Schauer, associate dean, research and faculty affairs and professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, has been appointed the inaugural Margaret C. Burns Chair in Engineering. Named for Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering alumna Margaret C. “Peggy” Burns ’79, the Margaret C. Burns Chair was established to support a faculty member who champions women, minorities, and members of the LGBTQ community.

“It is an honor and a privilege to be appointed the inaugural Margaret C. Burns Chair in Engineering,” says Schauer. “I am inspired by Peggy Burns’ accomplishments, both as an engineer and as a cultural change agent. I have dedicated my time at Drexel to not only pursuing groundbreaking research, but also working to improve diversity, equity, and inclusion within the College of Engineering. Peggy Burns shares these values, and this endowed chair will enable me to do more to help change the culture to create a college that is equitable, welcoming, and inviting to everyone.”

An advocate for historically underrepresented groups in engineering at all levels, Schauer has held a long-time commitment to building and fostering a diverse STEM pipeline, addressing inclusive culture within the college and University, and institutionalizing positive change towards equity. She serves as chair of the Drexel Engineering Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Committee and is principal investigator on a Department of Education Graduate Assistance in Areas of National Need (DoE GAANN) grant, Materials for Environmental Sustainability. She has also served as PI of a National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates Site, SENSORS – both grant programs have helped to provide greater opportunities in hands-on engineering to a diverse group of participants. Recognizing a need for support for women faculty across disciplines, Schauer founded and co-directs the Drexel Women Faculty Association, a networking group of women faculty from across the University.

Endowed gifts like the Margaret C. Burns Chair are closely aligned with our college’s strategic planning efforts. This significant support will enable us to advance our initiatives specifically around diversity, equity and inclusion. We are so grateful for Peggy’s generous support and belief in our vision.

“Professor Schauer is most deserving of this appointment as the inaugural Margaret C. Burns Chair,” says Sharon Walker, dean of the College of Engineering, Distinguished Professor of Civil and Architectural Engineering and executive director of the Executive Leadership in Academic Technology, Engineering and Science (ELATES) program at Drexel. “She has guided the relaunch of the college’s committee on DEI and in her role as associate dean, she has already made significant progress in updating our approaches to equitable faculty training and search processes and ensuring our policies around workload and review are more inclusive. Admittedly, we have more work to do, but we are off to a great start and, with Professor Schauer in this role, I am certain we will continue to make impressive progress with our DEI efforts.”

Schauer began her career at Drexel as assistant professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering in 2003, obtaining tenure and promotion in 2010 and promotion to full professor in 2018. She was appointed inaugural Associate Dean, Faculty Affairs in 2018 and simultaneously served as Interim Associate Dean, Research in the fall of 2019. She was appointed Associate Dean, Research and Faculty Affairs in January 2020. Schauer is the recipient of Drexel’s Harold M. Myers Award for Distinguished Service and the Drexel Fellowships Office Faculty Mentor Award, and she was a fellow in the ELATES program.

Newly elected to the College of Fellows of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE), Schauer conducts research that encompasses a wide range of topics including processing natural polymers, structural color thin films, electrospun nanoyarns, wound healing dressings, and tissue engineering. She has published over 60 publications and holds five patents (two licensed).

“I am thrilled with the appointment,” says Burns. “As soon as you meet Dr. Schauer, you feel welcomed and heard. She is exactly the model for inclusion in engineering, and her influence on the University and the profession is priceless.”
“When I enrolled at Drexel more than forty years ago, it was a different time and place,” adds Burns, who has become a role model for women in engineering. “There were very few women in the College of Engineering. I could count us on one hand. I went on to have a really fulfilling career, doing lots of interesting and important things. It’s because of Drexel.”

After starting at Drexel as a math major, Burns switched to electrical engineering and, by senior year, was recruited for a job at C&P Telephone Company in the Washington, DC, area. Burns went on to work at IBM and Lockheed Martin, focusing on satellite command and control, including GPS, as well as at Xerox, where she worked on transportation technology, including E-ZPass, traffic safety cameras and open payment systems like the SEPTA Key smart card, developed for the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority. In 2018, Burns moved to Leidos, where she works to secure large civil government engineering projects and contracts. Throughout her career, Burns says she felt a great sense of responsibility to the public, helping develop technology that is practical and impacts many lives.

“Endowed gifts like the Margaret C. Burns Chair are closely aligned with our college’s strategic planning efforts,” adds Walker. “This significant support will enable us to advance our initiatives specifically around DEI. We are so grateful for Peggy’s generous support and belief in our vision, not to mention her ongoing commitment to our college through her service on the Executive Advisory Council.” 

This story is adapted from an article that originally appeared in the College of Engineering website.


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