Sussan Olaore Receives Chancellor’s Award for Commitment to Equity, Diversity and Inclusion
In recognition of her commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion, Sussan Yetunde Olaore was selected as one of nine recipients of the University of Pittsburgh’s 2021 Chancellor’s Award for Staff.
Olaore has been the Pitt STRIVE program coordinator since she joined the Swanson School of Engineering in 2016. She manages day-to-day operations, helping underrepresented minorities (URMs) successfully transition into and complete doctoral engineering programs at Pitt.
The success of Pitt STRIVE was recognized by the University in 2019 when it received the University Prize for Strategic, Inclusive and Diverse Excellence (UPSIDE) Award by the Office of Diversity and Inclusion.
“We received this grant to help underrepresented students pursue PhDs, and it is really fulfilling to see these students thrive in the program and find jobs in industry or academia,” Olaore said.
The program also aims to cultivate a more diverse professoriate in U.S. colleges and universities, where URMs take up a small fraction of the professoriate compared to student populations. For Olaore, contributing to this mission has been a source of pride.
“I’m thrilled that two of our alumni have become professors in the area,” she said. “Katrina Knight is now an assistant professor in Pitt’s Department of Bioengineering, and Sossena Wood, a Presidential Post-Doctoral Fellow in Biomedical Engineering at Carnegie Mellon University, will be appointed assistant professor in the next academic year.
“I also helped recruit David Jordan, who defended his dissertation in the spring and is now a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Arizona.”
In addition to academic support, the Pitt STRIVE program and its administration have also provided personal support to URM students. They created the Pitt STRIVE Graduate Community that fosters opportunities and allows students to socialize and work in multicultural groups. They also established an annual Mentor-Mentee Retreat which provides a platform for participants to interact in an informal setting, breaking down barriers and protocols between mentors and mentees. Throughout the pandemic, when in-person events were cancelled, Olaore organized virtual hangouts to provide a safe social space and nurture collegiality.
“It’s very simple. The STRIVE program would not have been nearly as successful without Sussan,” said Steven Abramowitch, associate professor of bioengineering at Pitt. “She is selfless and extremely dedicated to our students.”