Montclair State University College of Science and Mathematics Dean Lora Billings received a 2019 New Jersey Women in STEM Mentoring Award from the Association for Women in Science of New Jersey (AWIS-NJ) at a March event recognizing the contributions women scientists make to the New Jersey STEM economy.
For Billings, who is the first woman to hold the position of dean of the College of Science and Mathematics in University history, the award is particularly meaningful. “My priority as dean is to increase enrollment in STEM fields, provide high-quality educational experiences for those students and promote diversity,” she says. “I’m also working to create additional support networks for women and underrepresented minorities in STEM fields to fuel a more inclusive environment.”
Chair of the Assembly Science, Innovation, and Technology Committee and a member of the New Jersey General Assembly, Andrew Zwicker, presented Billings with the award at the New Jersey State House. Zwicker’s Assembly Resolution stated, “This prestigious accolade is being bestowed upon Dr. Lora Billings in grateful recognition of her outstanding accomplishments as a STEM mentor who has significantly impacted and guided her STEM colleagues and students.”
Billings has mentored student research throughout her career, including more than 39 undergraduate, master’s and doctoral projects. She has also participated in federally funded programs such as GK-12 Fellows in the Middle: a Partnership for Inquiry and Interdisciplinary Middle School Science and Mathematics and the Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation.
Her approach to mentoring is straightforward. “We must continuously support all of our talented students throughout their education and create a professional ecosystem that accepts diversity, values hard work and promotes respect.”
The Montclair State subchapter of AWIS – which Billings founded in 2018 – does just that by supporting the University’s women STEM students with an opportunity to network and interact with AWIS academic and industry partners.
“With the help of College Advisory Board member Linda Obenauer-Kutner and Tori Zirul, a molecular biology student, we inspired a group of 40 women in science to sign up as AWIS members,” Billings notes. “The group plans to host several events in the spring, including a professional speaker series and experiential learning activities.”
According to Billings, a noted researcher who has published and delivered more than a hundred articles and presentations on applied mathematics, the award will inspire her to continue to work with the AWIS to achieve her goals and take advantage of all the organization has to offer.