Karen Horton, 2012 Presidential Public Service Achievement Award

Karen Horton, 2012 Presidential Public Service Achievement Award

Karen Horton has compiled an extraordinary record of service — locally, regionally and nationally. Her efforts grow out of her expertise as a faculty member and professional engineer, and demonstrate remarkable creativity, range and persistence.

In her service to the Society of Women Engineers (SWE), Horton revitalized the UMaine chapter, served in regional and national positions, and received the national 2010 Outstanding Counselor Award. After enthusiastically getting involved with public policy and lobbying, SWE’s national board voted Horton the chair of its Government Relations and Public Policy Committee, a position that has taken her to Capitol Hill and the White House. As SWE Executive Director and CEO Betty Shanahan writes,
“Karen is a standout in driving member engagement as the foundation of growing and sustaining our advocacy efforts.”

Since coming to UMaine in 1997, Horton also convinced her dean to start a program to interest middle-school girls in engineering; created a teaching evaluation form used by the School of Engineering Technology that avoids gender biases; developed a service-learning applied-research project on the virtual preservation of ruins in the Virgin Islands; and created activities involving professionalism for students in mechanical engineering technology. Horton also organized and raised money for a girls-oriented camp focusing on computer aided design, and supported projects for the Girl’s Collaborative.

In October 2010, UMaine learned that it would receive a $3.3 million, five-year ADVANCE grant from the National Science Foundation to effect institutional transformation to advance, retain and recruit women faculty in the sciences and engineering.

Simply put, the extensive effort that led to this grant being written would not have even begun without Horton. She built a team, starting with Amy Fried, and then recruited Jody Jellison and Susan Gardner. Jellison notes she originally declined an invitation from Horton to get involved in the endeavor but added: “It is a testament to her determination that I cannot actually remember agreeing to participate in the drafting of a proposal for NSF-ADVANCE or in any other diversity initiative, and yet found myself somehow a part of her team.”

Consistently, Horton has worked as an individual and as a leader. As UMaine student and SWE Chapter President Emily West wrote in support of this nomination, Horton “encourages each of us to be leaders.”

And, as Dean Dana Humphrey said, “Professor Horton has had a greater impact on women in the profession of engineering than any current or former University of Maine faculty member. Her impact has been felt from Boardman Hall to the White House.”

Contact: Margaret Nagle, (207) 581-3745