IHL names Sullivan 'Diversity Educator of Year'

Rani Warsi Sullivan, center, associate professor of aerospace engineering at Mississippi State University, was named the 2014 Diversity Educator of the Year on Feb. 20 by the Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning. Presenting Sullivan with the award are IHL Board Member and MSU alumnus C.D. Smith, Jr. of Meridian, left, and MSU President Mark E. Keenum. Sullivan, also an academic advisor to senior aerospace students in MSU’s James Worth Bagley College of Engineering, was honored during a Black History Month ceremony in Jackson which recognized university faculty and staff from colleges and universities around the state.

Rani Warsi Sullivan, a Mississippi State associate professor of aerospace engineering, was named the 2014 Diversity Educator of the Year by the Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning last week.

The board celebrated Black History Month with a Feb. 20 ceremony in Jackson and honored university faculty and staff from colleges and universities around the state.

In addition to Sullivan, Paula Threadgill, associate director of the MSU Extension Service was among honorees nominated for the overall diversity award. Threadgill, who represents MSU's Division of Agriculture, Forestry and Veterinary Medicine, received the Diversity Award for Excellence, along with eight honorees from the state's other institutions of higher learning.

One community leader, Dr. Robert Smith, a physician, civil rights activist, researcher and public policy advocate, also was recognized during the event.

Sullivan is an academic advisor for senior aerospace students in MSU's James Worth Bagley College of Engineering. She is an advisory board member of the engineering honor society Tau Beta Pi and since 2004 has served as the faculty advisor for the internationally diverse Muslim Student Association. In 2013, she received MSU's faculty diversity award from the President's Commission on the Status of Minorities.

Sullivan and her graduate and undergraduate students provide active learning experiences in engineering mechanics to incoming minority freshman students in the Bagley College of Engineering's Summer Bridge program and to students at East and West Oktibbeha County High Schools.

She supports programs to encourage women in science and engineering, such as the MSU student chapter of the Society of Women Engineers, the Graduate Women in Science and Engineering, and the Dreams of Wings event for inspiring women to seek careers in aviation.

She has been involved in numerous interfaith and intercultural activities that promote meaningful dialogue between persons of different nationalities, religions and ethnicities.

An aerospace engineering doctoral graduate of Mississippi State, Sullivan also received her master's degree in engineering mechanics and her undergraduate degree in aerospace engineering from MSU. Prior to joining the faculty she spent 13 years as a research engineer at MSU's Raspet Flight Research Laboratory where she participated in projects such as the prototype development of the all-composite Honda business jet and the Ultralight Sensor Platform project which involved the structural testing of a composite unmanned aerial aircraft.

In 2010, Sullivan earned a NASA Summer Faculty Fellowship at the Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio. She is a member of the Bagley College of Engineering's Academy of Distinguished Teachers, a 2012 recipient of the Hearin Faculty Excellence Award and a 2010 and 2009 recipient of a Hearin State Pride award. In 2012, she was selected to participate in the National Academy of Engineering's Frontiers of Engineering Education symposium and voted Professor of the Year in the Department of Aerospace Engineering in 2011.

The Mississippi Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning governs the public universities in Mississippi, including Alcorn State University; Delta State University; Jackson State University; Mississippi State University including the Mississippi State University Division of Agriculture, Forestry and Veterinary Medicine; Mississippi University for Women; Mississippi Valley State University; the University of Mississippi including the University of Mississippi Medical Center; and the University of Southern Mississippi.

Allison Matthews | Public Affairs

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