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Carlotta Berry Increasing Diversity One Woman at a Time
November 25, 2014
Energetic Educator: Carlotta Berry, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering, helped establish the Rose Building Undergraduate Diversity program. It has brought 20 outstanding women to Rose-Hulman’s electrical engineering, computer engineering, computer science, and software engineering programs. (Photo by Shawn Spence)
When Heather Finnell traveled from her hometown of Decatur, Tennessee to visit Rose-Hulman for the first time, she immediately felt a bond with one of the school’s leading advocates for diversity: Carlotta Berry, PhD, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering.
“She is from Nashville, so we had an instant connection,” Finnell says. “She is so fun, and she tells it like it is. She is exactly the kind of person that you want teaching you and to be your faculty advisor.”
Finnell, a 2014 computer engineering graduate, was one of four women in her class to participate in the Rose Building Undergraduate Diversity (ROSE-BUD) program that Berry helped establish in 2008 with faculty colleague Deborah Walter, PhD, and support from the National Science Foundation. It has attracted 20 outstanding women to the institute’s electrical engineering, computer engineering, computer science, and software engineering programs with a combination of scholarships, special programs, and social activities to build a sense of community.
“We give students a sense of value, and emphasize that it is important that they are at Rose-Hulman. It’s not just about throwing money at a problem,” says Berry.
Like the ROSE-BUD participants, Berry knows what it’s like to be in the minority. She is Rose-Hulman’s lone African American female faculty member and one of four female professors in the Department of Electrical Engineering. (Nationally, as of 2011 African-American women make up 4 percent of all women currently in the engineering professoriate.)
Berry’s opinion article, “They Call Me Doctor Berry,” was published by The New York Times this fall.
“I became an engineering professor 20 years ago while sitting in class and realizing that I had never had a professor who looked like me, acted like me, or even seemed interested in me,” she says. “I wanted to change the face of engineering by showing that the profession could be cool, interesting, exciting, engaging, and, most importantly, diverse.”
Berry has accomplished that goal through ROSE-BUD, being a judge and organizer at FIRST Robotics competitions, and helping start Rose-Hulman’s multidisciplinary robotics program.
“Dr. Berry is a very energetic person, and you can’t help being drawn to her. She always brightens my day,” states ROSE-BUD participant Kayla Brosie, a senior electrical engineering student.
Berry says having more women in the electrical engineering, computer, and software programs is in Rose-Hulman’s best interest.
“Research shows that working on multicultural and multidisciplinary design teams gives better results,” she says. “As engineers, we want to answer the world’s problems. We want to design systems and processes that help humanity and society. We have to be able to understand the world and be familiar with people who are different. If you don’t have a diverse perspective, it’s very hard for you to empathize with the needs of others.”
“I wanted to change the face of engineering by showing that the profession could be cool, interesting, exciting, engaging, and, most importantly, diverse.”
Associate Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering
- Ph.D., Vanderbilt University, 2003
- M.S., Wayne State University, 1996
- B.S., Georgia Institute of Technology, 1993
- B.S., Spelman College, 1992
Areas of Interest:
Educational mobile robotics, recruitment and retention activities for underrepresented populations in ECE and enhanced human-robot interfaces.
Office: Moench D202