Rice’s 2005 Presidential Award for Mentoring has been awarded to mechanical engineering’s Yildiz Bayazitoglu, a pioneer among women engineers who has gained national acclaim for her support of students, particularly young women.
“I never made a conscious decision to emphasize mentoring,” said Bayazitoglu, the Harry S. Cameron Professor in Mechanical Engineering. “It came naturally to me when I started teaching and advising.
“I strongly believe that being a role model — by having a successful professional and fulfilling personal life, and by having a positive attitude and defined goals — makes one more effective, motivational and influential as a mentor,” she said.
The mentoring award is given annually to a faculty member who has demonstrated a commitment to mentoring students, either graduate or undergraduate. Particular emphasis is given to candidates who have promoted diversity by mentoring women and underrepresented minorities. The award includes a $2,000 prize.
“I am humbled, honored and very happy to receive this award,” said Bayazitoglu. “I thank my past and current students for nominating me and my colleagues on the awards committee for selecting me.”
Bayazitoglu, the first woman to earn a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from the University of Michigan, joined Rice in 1977 and earned tenure three years later. A tireless supporter of female students, Bayazitoglu has served more than 20 years as the adviser to Rice’s chapter of the Society of Women Engineers (SWE). She has been recognized with many awards for her mentoring and teaching, including the SWE’s National Distinguished Educator Award in 1997, Rice’s Julia Mile Chance Prize for Excellence in Teaching in 2003, both the Graduate Student Association Faculty Teaching/Mentoring Award and the Outstanding College Associate Award from Will Rice College in 2002 and a George R. Brown Award for Superior Teaching in 1999.
“I consider myself very fortunate to attract and work with a very special and high-quality group of students,” Bayazitoglu said. “I have not made a special effort to recruit them, but I’ve certainly tried my best to have fruitful professional and meaningful personal relationships with them.”
Among her many notable former students is Dianne Nicholas, the first African-American woman in the nation to earn a doctorate in mechanical engineering.
“Her students have gone on to do very well,” said Enrique Barrera, professor and chair of the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science. “More than half of her graduate students have gone on to faculty positions in academia, which is a wonderful record of achievement.”
Known affectionately to her students as “Dr. B,” Bayazitoglu has a special quality that seems to draw students to her, Barrera said.
“Students make a real and lasting connection with her,” he said. “She is extremely supportive, and that continues long after the student is gone from Rice.”
Indeed, Bayazitoglu stays in close contact with many of her former students. Like a proud mother boasting about her children, she can recite the dates they were married, had children and so on. In fact, she said her husband has been known to chide her about her devotion to students.
“He enjoys joking with me that my children come first, then my students and then him,” she said with a grin.