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Ruth Davis holds her SWE Distinguished Engineering Educator Award

Ruth Davis holds her SWE Distinguished Engineering Educator Award

Ruth Davis Receives SWE Distinguished Engineering Educator Award

In 1979, Ruth Davis was the first female tenure-track faculty member hired by the School of Engineering. Over the past 40 years, she has blazed many trails and championed women in computing and engineering as professor and associate dean of undergraduate programs. This year, she is honored with the Society of Women Engineers’ Distinguished Engineering Educator Award.

Scholar. Visionary. Inspiration. These are just some of the words that describe Ruth Davis, professor of computer science and engineering, associate dean of undergraduate engineering at SCU, and 2020 recipient of the Society of Women Engineers’ Distinguished Engineering Educator Award. 

As the first female tenure-track faculty member hired by the School of Engineering in 1979, Dr. Davis has had a deep and lasting influence on engineering at Santa Clara. A founding member of the Computer Engineering Department, she developed 15 new courses in just 4 years. In her first two decades at SCU, she was a prolific scholar in her research area of software engineering, publishing three dozen conference and journal articles, and penning two books. 

As the faculty advisor of SCU’s Collegiate SWE section for more than 20 years, Dr. Davis facilitated partnerships and created programs with local high schools, among them, One Step Ahead, offering workshops to girls in the Santa Clara Unified School District. 

Always a champion of women in computing and engineering, midway through her tenure here at SCU Dr. Davis’ passion for recruiting and retaining diversity in engineering became the focus of her scholarship and service. She has since published more than two dozen papers on the subject, and has put SCU at the forefront of this effort through collaborations with the Academic Alliance of the National Center for Women in Information Technology (NCWIT), as a contributor to the founding of the Institute of Women and Technology (IWT, now, and co-creator of the Virtual Development Center (VDC)—a collaborative effort of U.S. colleges and universities established in the 1990s to draw both technical and non-technical women into the field by connecting the dots between technology and social impact.  She also helped create the School of Engineering’s Summer Engineering Seminar, a fun, weeklong immersion program for women and other underrepresented students to learn about college life and the different fields of engineering.

Since 2003, Dr. Davis has served as Associate Dean, Undergraduate Programs. In this role, she continues to advance the recruitment and retention of underrepresented students in SCU engineering. Over the years, she has secured and managed more than $3.5M in grants to support community-based learning, teacher support, course and curriculum development, pipeline programs drawing students to engineering, and more. 

An excellent teacher and compassionate and driven administrator, Ruth Davis has had a profound influence on her students, her department, her School, and her field, greatly enhancing the lives of many Bronco engineering students over the past four decades.

“Through my career at SCU and my affiliation with SWE, NCWIT, and the Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology, I have met so many outstanding women, and our amazing SCU students continually inspire me, as well, with their dedication, creativity, and energy. I can't begin to express how much I appreciate this award, and the efforts of these women in helping me earn it,” said Davis, continuing, “As recently as ten years ago, women in engineering education were few and far between, but for many years Santa Clara held the distinction of being the school with the highest percentage of women engineering faculty in the nation. I am happy to report that we have fallen in that ranking--not because we have fewer women, but because many other schools have now hired more women engineering faculty--and that is good for engineering education and for the profession.”


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