Building expert joins national STEM diversity and inclusion program

College of Engineering’s Esther Obonyo named to third cohort of IAspire Leadership Academy

Esther Obonyo, director of the Global Building Network and associate professor of engineering design and architectural engineering, was recently named a fellow in the third cohort of the IAspire Leadership Academy. Credit: Penn StateAll Rights Reserved.

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Esther Obonyo, director of the Penn State Global Building Network and associate professor of engineering design and architectural engineering, was recently named a fellow in the third cohort of the IAspire Leadership Academy. The leadership program is aimed at helping science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) faculty from underrepresented backgrounds ascend to leadership roles at colleges and universities.

The academy is part of the Aspire Alliance’s Institutional Change Initiative, which the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) and the University of Georgia lead.  

“Since joining Penn State in 2015, Dr. Obonyo has served as an exemplary champion for engineering education and research,” said Justin Schwartz, Harold and Inge Marcus Dean in the College of Engineering. “Her drive to continue advancing the engineering design and architectural engineering disciplines, paired with her directorship of the Global Building Network, highlights her passion for engineering and its positive impact on humanity.”

“We’re excited that so many institutions were able to support the participation of emerging STEM leaders from underrepresented groups in the third cohort of the IAspire Leadership Academy,” said Howard Gobstein, director of the Aspire Alliance and executive vice president at the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU). “More than ever, we see the need for institutions to cultivate and support diversity in faculty and university leadership, and this year’s class of fellows will be well positioned to advance these goals.”

Rochelle Sapp, IAspire Leadership Academy director and leadership development specialist in the Office of Learning and Organizational Development at the University of Georgia, emphasized the program’s leadership development value.  

“Advancing diverse and under-represented groups of leaders in STEM higher education is critical to the success of higher education and society, especially providing these leaders opportunities to focus on their personal leadership skills, goals and style,” Sapp said. “We are also hopeful about the power of community among the fellows to create a lasting foundation of mutual support to advance their ongoing development and success.”

The academy is one pillar of diversity and inclusion work underway through the Aspire Alliance (formally known as the National Alliance for Inclusive & Diverse STEM Faculty). The National Science Foundation-backed alliance is working across post-secondary institutions to develop more equitable institutional cultures to create a more inclusive and diverse STEM professoriate. 

The leadership academy provides professional development for academic leaders from underrepresented groups so they can aspire to and succeed in more senior leadership roles, thus broadening participation in academic leadership. Fellows will learn effective executive leadership skills for increasingly complex higher education environments as well as strategies for influencing institutional transformation in their current and future leadership positions. 

The academy is targeted at mid-career individuals from traditionally underrepresented groups interested in serving in college or university leadership roles in STEM fields. The 27 participating faculty and administrators were selected through a competitive, holistic review of their applications. 

Learn more about the IAspire Leadership Academy on the Aspire Alliance IAspire Leadership Academy site.  


Last Updated September 09, 2021