May 18, 2005

Chevalier, Joseph named Women of Distinction

by K.C. Jaehnig


Lizette R. Chevalier

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Lizette R. Chevalier, chair of Southern Illinois University Carbondale's Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, and Allison E. Joseph, associate professor in the English department's creative writing program, received University Women of Distinction awards at a reception in their honor Thursday, May 12.

Given annually by SIUC's University Women's Professional Advancement office, these awards recognize women's commitment to diversity, professional leadership and service to the University and community. Enhancing diversity and serving others are among the goals of Southern at 150: Building Excellence Through Commitment, the blueprint for the development of the University by the time it celebrates its 150th anniversary in 2019.

Chevalier, a faculty member since 1999, is the first woman to chair a department in the College of Engineering and only the third woman ever to receive tenure there. Under her leadership, her department received full accreditation from the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology, a national organization that reviews programs to ensure that they meet defined standards. Many state licensing boards require graduation from an accredited program.

"In the next few years as chair she has plotted a progressive path for our department, and the most notable steps taken to encourage greater inclusiveness and participation are two current searches for faculty positions," wrote colleague Bruce A. DeVantier, who served as interim department chair before Chevalier took the position, in a letter supporting her nomination for the award.

"She has aided the search chairs (of which I am one) in developing a strong pool of candidates while greatly increasing the possibility that we will increase the faculty representation among faculty from women and minorities through her recruitment and networking efforts. Thanks to her efforts, our department's future is bright."

Throughout her SIUC career, Chevalier has played a significant role in college programs aimed at recruiting women and minorities, including the annual Women in Engineering high school outreach program, the engineering summer camp for women and minorities, the Expanding Your Horizon workshop for junior-high girls and other such activities.

She has obtained a number of grants that focus on improving diversity in the classroom, and she goes out of her way to offer women and minority students opportunities to work with her on her research. In addition, she serves as a faculty mentor to female, tenure-track colleagues.

Chevalier earned her bachelor's degree in 1988 from Wayne State University in Detroit and master's and doctoral degrees in 1990 and 1994 respectively from Michigan State University.

Joseph, described by colleague Rodney Jones as "an African-Caribbean/North American/South Bronx poetry star," has published five books and numerous individual poems to wide critical acclaim. A three-time winner of the Academy of American Poets prize, she has also won, among other nationally prestigious awards, the Propper Prize in Poetry, the John Crowe Ransom Prize and the John C. Zacharis First Book Award.

The only African-American woman in the country serving as editor of a national literary journal, she also is editor of a soon-to-be-published anthology of poetry by women of African descent. In addition, she serves on the board of directors of the Associated Writing Programs, a national professional association for creative writing.

To colleague E. Beth Lordan, Joseph's wealth of ideas — and the energy with which she makes them reality — set her apart.

"She had an idea that we ought to have a young writer's workshop in the summer for high school students, and she did the research, designed the program, raised funds to support it, contributed her own dollars to it, integrated it into the MFA (master of fine arts) program and has run it for six summers, doing everything from teaching workshops to trouble-shooting meal card problems to arranging transportation for students," Lordan wrote in her letter of support.

"She thought creative writing ought to be an active participant in celebrating women at SIUC and established a poetry contest that she has administered for years. When an MFA student died in a car accident, Allison thought her energy and talent ought to be remembered, and she established a poetry prize in her honor, organizing calls for submissions and finding judges.

"Allison is, in short, the embodiment of commitment — her vision is large and original and matched by her willingness and ability to support that vision with action and to enlist others in the action."

Joseph earned her bachelor's in 1988 from Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio, and her master's in 1992 from Indiana University.


Allison E. Joseph