Stanford mechanical engineer Sheri Sheppard named U.S. professor of the year

Sheri Sheppard receives a national honor for her innovative approach to teaching undergraduate students in a hands-on, problem-solving way that transforms large classes into small group learning laboratories.

Video by Tom Abate and Vignesh RamachandranStanford mechanical engineering Professor Sheri Sheppard, who has studied how to attract diverse students to science, technology, engineering and mathematics, was named 2014 U.S. Professor of the Year for doctoral and research universities by the Carnegie Foundation.

Sheri Sheppard, a professor of mechanical engineering at Stanford, today was named U.S. Professor of the Year for doctoral and research universities.

The U.S. Professors of the Year awards are sponsored by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and administered by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE).

Created in 1981, the awards are the only nationwide initiatives specifically designed to highlight excellence in undergraduate teaching and mentoring.

“We are extremely pleased that Sheri Sheppard has now been recognized nationally for her effort,” said John Etchemendy, Stanford’s provost and the Patrick Suppes Family Professor in the School of Humanities and Sciences. “We are very proud that a member of Stanford’s faculty has been named with this distinguished honor.”

Sheppard is scheduled to receive her award today at a ceremony in Washington, D.C., along with three other professors who were similarly honored in their categories: community colleges, baccalaureate colleges and colleges that offer master’s degrees.

John Lippincott, the president of CASE, said the winners challenged students by approaching teaching and learning in new and compelling ways.

“These professors eschew traditional lectures and rote memorization drills and instead favor a more research-focused approach to pedagogy,” Lippincott said.

This year’s winners were chosen from a pool of nearly 400 nominees and were selected by an independent panel of judges based on four criteria: impact on, and involvement with, undergraduate students; scholarly approach to teaching and learning; contributions to undergraduate education in the institution, community and profession; and support from colleagues and current and former students.

Sheppard, the Burton J. and Deedee McMurtry University Fellow in Undergraduate Education and Professor of Mechanical Engineering, said she was humbled by the award. She thanked her many collaborators over the years, including those from the Stanford Center for Teaching and Learning, for helping her to create a learning-by-doing classroom environment that gives beginning engineers problem-solving experience.

“Today’s modern engineering work, more so than ever, is about being on teams, and so educators more and more are thinking about how to bring those team experiences into the classroom,” Sheppard said in a video highlighting her work.

Harry J. Elam, Stanford’s Freeman-Thornton Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education and the Olive H. Palmer Professor in Humanities, led the team of Stanford colleagues who nominated Sheppard. They cited her prior teaching research, including her leadership of a three year-study titled “Educating Engineers,” which was carried out under the aegis of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.

Among previous honors, Sheppard received the 2010 Stanford Walter J. Gores Award, the university’s highest honor for excellence in teaching.

Robyn Wright Dunbar, the university’s associate vice provost for undergraduate education and director of the Center for Teaching and Learning, said the national award will focus attention on Sheppard’s innovations, such as breaking her large introductory mechanical engineering class into pods and training her teaching assistants to help her lead in-class problem-solving exercises.

“She has students building and talking and constructing together from the get-go,” Dunbar said. “They’re developing engineering expertise, not waiting until they know enough stuff, but developing engineering expertise from the beginning.”

Sheppard received her doctorate in mechanical engineering from the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor in 1985 and joined the Stanford faculty a year later as an assistant professor, rising to associate professor in 1993 and full professor in 2005.

For more than 20 years Sheppard has studied how to attract and train young engineers. This has involved initiatives sponsored by the National Science Foundation, including the Center for the Advancement of Engineering Education (2003 to 2009.) More recently she teamed up with Tom Byers, an entrepreneurship professor in the Stanford School of Engineering, to create the National Center for Engineering Pathways to Innovation (Epicenter), which began in 2011 and runs through 2016.

Sheppard is a fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineering, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE). In 2004 she received the ASEE Chester F. Carlson Award in recognition of distinguished accomplishment in engineering education. She also won the ASEE Wickenden Best Journal of Engineering Education Paper awards in 2005, 2008 and 2011.

“It’s totally amazing to watch the teacher come out of the students you’re working with, and to think that maybe you’ve got some small part in that,” Sheppard said. “I find teaching challenging and very often fun and without a doubt the most wonderful part of my work.”

Anthony S. Bryk, president of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, noted the “extraordinary leadership” of the 2014 award winners.

“Each of our awardees … brings extraordinary leadership not just to their classrooms, but to their departments, colleges and universities, and their respective professional fields,” Bryk said.

Media Contact

Tom Abate, Stanford Engineering: (650) 736-2245,

Why the Gun Industry Will Never Win Over American Women

November 17, 2014 by


Gun manufacturers are waging a full-on marketing assault in a desperate attempt to pump new life into an industry in a four decades-long decline—and the target in their crosshairs is women.

With the growth of women-driven consumer power and influence in social mediacircles, trigger-happy industrialists are eager to secure the demographic by re-branding firearms in the most friendly and fabulous ways possible.

But while gun manufacturers and the National Rifle Association just want to slap some pink paint on a few pistols and call it day, the inconvenient truth is that American women are uniquely impacted by gun violence.

“Every single week, nine women [in the U.S.] are shot and killed by an intimate partner and that’s an average of 48 women every single month,” says Shannon Watts, founder of the non-partisan group Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. “And then [American] women are 11 times more likely to be murdered with a gun than women in other developed countries. And also amajority of mass shootings are actually tied to domestic abuse. So if you look at all of that, you look at the fact that a gun in a domestic violence situation makes it five times more likely a woman will be killed, all of the data points speak to this being an incredibly important issue for women.”

The numbers don’t lie. Domestic violence affects 1 in 4 women nationwide. Two-thirds of female homicides victims are killed by an intimate partner and over half are shot and killed with guns. Though some gun advocates and conservatives claim “the gun may be the only thing that gives the victim of abuse a fighting chance of survival,” the reality is, according to a recent study, only 7 percent of women used a gun successfully to defend themselves from an abuser. In addition, given the fact that most victims of domestic violence are killed after they leave their abusers, the role of stalking in such deaths cannot be ignored. Indeed, 66 percent of women stalking victims are stalked by an intimate partner, and 3 out of 4 women killed by an intimate partner reported being stalked prior to their death.

Despite all this, the gun industry is trying to woo women into buying guns using intimidation tactics, invoking the threat of potential violence in the name of female empowerment. As NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre said, “The one thing a violent rapist deserves to face is a good woman with a gun.” But the truth is not a single study to date suggests gun ownership reduces the incidence of crimes like burglary, robbery, rape, home invasion or domestic violence against a woman. According to a study by Susan B Sorenson, in reality, “women are more than twice as likely to be shot by their male intimates as they are to be shot, stabbed, strangled, bludgeoned or killed in any other way by a stranger.” In fact, 6,410 women were murdered by an intimate partner using a gun from 2001 through 2012 alone, more than the total number of U.S. troops killed in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan combined during the same period.

The jig may be up for the gun lobby, though: more and more women like Watts have had enough of the industry’s faux-feminist rhetoric. In 2013, gun sense advocates like former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D- Ariz.)who survived a gunshot wound to the head in 2011, and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) introduced the Protecting Domestic Violence and Stalking Victims Act to prevent convicted abusers and stalkers from obtaining guns. That same year, Congresswoman Lois Capps (D-Calif.) introduced similar legislation in California.

Women voters are also taking a stand, says Watts. She attributes the successful passage of laws like Washington state’s I-594 to the strength of women voters. “If you look at a recent poll conducted by Purple Strategies, almost all women voters—93 percent regardless of political party—support background checks for all gun sales and if you just look at Republican women and independents, it’s 89 percent. … The polls show, by a 3 to 1 margin, women will reward, not punish, a candidate that supports gun safety and background checks.”

“[Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America] absolutely supports the Second Amendment,” insists Watts. “This is about making sure that you are not a criminal, you are not a domestic abuser, you are not a rapist when you go buy a gun. And that’s just common sense.”

Photo courtesy of Charles Knowles via Flickr Creative Commons 2.0.


Kitty Lindsay is an editorial intern at Ms. Follow her on Twitter @KittyLindsayLA


  1. Nicola J Smith says:

    Then you have the likes of Marissa Alexander who does stand her ground with a warning shot only and is sentenced to twenty years. So, not only is it difficult for women to defend themselves, when they do, they are punished for it!

  2. More guns will never make anyone more safe. Paint them pink or lavender, add a few gems here and there. How about a bow iron a rose. I prefer those actual items, instead of a gun (lethal weapon) dressed up as a lady. It will not work. A rose by any other name is still a rose. Killing is not pretty.

STATEMENT: Feminist Majority Applauds President’s Executive Order on Immigration

Statement from Eleanor Smeal, Feminist Majority president:

“The Feminist Majority applauds President Obama for taking much needed executive action to help fix our broken immigration system that has for too long torn hardworking families apart. We also commend the tireless grassroots activists who fought for this victory for themselves, their children, and their families.

“For the past year and a half, House Republicans have blocked a comprehensive immigration reform bill from coming to a vote. Their failure to vote up-or-down on a bipartisan bill passed by the Senate, or to propose a plan of their own, has pushed millions of people into the shadows and has threatened not only our economic security but our nation’s families and communities.

“That’s why President Obama had to take this action now: to keep families together. Our nation’s immigrants have earned this protection, working in our farm fields, our food processing facilities, and our construction sites as well as cleaning our buildings and taking care of our sick and our children.

“It is estimated that the reforms announced by the President will enable up to 5 million immigrants to apply for temporary relief from deportation and for work authorization. Up to 5 million people will now be able to live their lives without constant fear of deportation, without the fear that they will be separated, sometimes forever, from their families and loved ones and forced to return to a country where some no longer have any ties.

“Although the announced executive actions are an important first step, we continue to call on Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform that will reach all immigrants and that will ensure that everyone has access to comprehensive health care. The current plan does not enable taxpaying immigrants who qualify for temporary relief to access the benefits of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) healthcare marketplaces, Medicaid, or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).”