Visiting Professor of Inclusive Engineering appointed

RAEng Visiting Professor of Inclusive Engineering Dawn Bonfield
RAEng Visiting Professor Dawn Bonfield MBE

27 September 2017

  • Dawn Bonfield MBE appointed Visiting Professor of Inclusive Engineering
  • Role aims to put Aston University ahead of its competitors
  • New module and masterclasses will help students develop skills needed for employment

One of the country’s most passionate champions of encouraging women into the industry of engineering is to embed inclusive engineering into the curriculum at Aston University.  

Professor Dawn Bonfield, MBE, has been appointed Royal Academy of Engineering Visiting Professor of Inclusive Engineering to the School of Engineering and Applied Science. The appointment will run for three years.

The former CEO of the charity Women’s Engineering Society (WES), Dawn was awarded an MBE in 2016 for “services to the promotion of diversity in engineering.”  She will be working with the School staff and undergraduates to develop an undergraduate module on inclusive engineering.  

She said: “I am delighted to be working with Aston University on this important topic. My role here involves equipping our next generation of engineers with the skills and competencies they need to be inclusive, and also in ensuring that our future engineering solutions are inclusive too.  

“Undergraduates will benefit in many ways. The materials I will be developing together with School staff will help them develop their skills as they progress towards their first job. I will be teaching also a final year module and masterclasses so that students can learn about the value and practice of inclusivity.”

Dr Kate Sugden, Associate Dean for Enterprise in the School of Engineering and Applied Science, said: “There is a skills shortage in the engineering profession and encouraging more women and other under-represented groups into the profession will help to address this gap.

“However, whilst diversity and inclusion have been growing in importance throughout all professions in the UK over the past 20 years, there has not been significant progress in engineering. More work needs to be done to embed the competence and the practice of inclusive engineering into all aspects of the profession, starting at undergraduate level.”

She explained that new guidance by the Engineering Council on inclusivity was expected in 2019 and Aston University was keen to be at the forefront of research into methods of teaching inclusivity and embedding this into its engineering curriculum.

“Dawn’s appointment positions Aston University as a leader in the UK in embedding inclusivity into the engineering curriculum,” added Kate. “This will give our students an advantage regarding employment and professional registration and, potentially, they will be the first to graduate with ways of demonstrating this competence. They will have learnt the value of inclusive leadership, how to ensure an inclusive culture exists in the workplace and why these skills are important to the productivity, safety and profitability of their future employer.”

The School of Engineering and Applied Science has a strong track record of leadership in diversity and inclusion. It has held a silver Athena SWAN award – which recognises progress in addressing gender and other inequalities in academia - since 2014.

The School recently appointed its first female Pro-Vice Chancellor and Executive Dean, Professor Sarah Hainsworth, who is Deputy Chair of the Royal Academy of Engineering’s Diversity and Inclusion committee.


Notes to the editor

The Royal Academy of Engineering is the UK’s national academy for engineering. It has four strategic challenges: make the UK the leading nation for engineering innovation; address the engineering skills crisis; position engineering at the heart of society; lead the profession.

The RAE’s Visiting Professor scheme is an industry-into-academia initiative that aims to utilise the experience of the Visiting Professors to enhance student learning as well as the employability and skills of UK engineering graduates.

Under the scheme, senior industry practitioners deliver face-to-face teaching and mentoring at the host university. They may also contribute to postgraduate teaching, curriculum development (such as the development of new modules/programmes) and strategy development. This award provides up to £10,000 per year over three years for a Visiting Professor to support the university with these activities.

Professor Dawn Bonfield is the latest Royal Academy of Engineering (RAE) Visiting Professor to join Aston’s School of Engineering and Applied Science. The others are: Nelson Ogunshakin, Keith Clarke, Jack Hynds, Kameel Sawalha and Michael Wood. 

She graduated from the University of Bath with a Materials Science degree and began her career in materials research at Citroen in Paris. She has also worked in the research department of British Aerospace (BAE Systems) where she was the only woman in an intake of 20.

Dawn is a Chartered and European Engineer, a Fellow of the Institution of Civil Engineers, a Fellow of the Institute of materials, Minerals and Mining (FIMMM), a Fellow of WES, and an Honorary Fellow of the Institution of Structural Engineers.

In addition to being awarded an MBE in the 2016 Queen’s Birthday Honours list, that year Dawn also won a WISE award, the SEMTA award for Diversity, the Association Congress Award for best campaign for the event she founded - National Women in Engineering Day – and was a finalist in the Global Engineering Deans Council Global Diversity Award.

More information about Dawn can be found here.

Founded in 1895 and a University since 1966, Aston University has been always been a force for change. For 50 years the University has been transforming lives through pioneering research, innovative teaching and graduate employability success. Aston is renowned for its opportunity enabler through broad access and inspiring academics, providing education that is applied and has real impact on all areas of society, business and industry.

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