Katherine Hornbostel Receives Pitt STRIVE’s Outstanding DEI Service Award
The Pitt STRIVE program selected Katherine Hornbostel, assistant professor of mechanical engineering and materials science (MEMS), to receive the 2021 Outstanding DEI Service Award. This accolade recognizes her efforts to advance diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering.
In her nomination package, MEMS Department Chair and Professor Brian Gleeson, noted, “I cannot overstate the commitment and passion that Katherine has for making DEI a prominent and accepted feature of the MEMS Department, be it in our curriculum, research, or daily interactions amongst faculty, staff, and students.”
In response to the nation’s racial unrest in 2020, Hornbostel established the SSoE Diversity Book Club as a resource to increase awareness surrounding issues related to racism, identity, privilege, and allyship. The group meets via Zoom and divides into breakout rooms to reflect on the text and tackle discussion questions.
“It is rare to have a setting where students and faculty are on equal footing and both feel comfortable contributing to a discussion,” Hornbostel said. “In this situation, no one was an expert, and we all had a lot to learn about how to become better allies.”
In addition to the book club, Hornbostel helped form the MEMS Student Advisory Board to build a more supportive community for the department’s underrepresented students. She leads the Awareness sub-committee which aims to shine a light on current issues related to diversity, equity and inclusion that affect the student population.
In the past year, she was also able to support students by sponsoring a senior design team that developed outreach materials to introduce local Black high school students to coding. The team created an interactive device that coupled coding and basketball. A unique sleeve, powered by an Adafruit microcontroller, lights up and creates patterns from code as the user shoots a basketball.
“The MEMS design course was lacking in terms of DEI-themed projects, and I think it is an essential aspect of our undergraduate training,” she said. “This team of innovators had great initiative and an impressive project; I was simply there to support and guide them along the way.”
Her senior design team from the fall semester included Terrell Galloway, who recently graduated and co-founded a local start-up that mentors local, male-identifying Black youths.
“The Pitt STRIVE Program aims to provide an inclusive academic environment to support the success of our underrepresented graduate students,” said Sylvanus Wosu, associate dean for diversity affairs at the Swanson School. “Katherine demonstrates what we seek in faculty engagement by increasing awareness of the challenges these students face, motivating other faculty to examine their own contributions to DEI, and developing activities that foster a more inclusive culture within and outside the department.”