By Bryan Hay 

A mechanical engineer, scholar, teacher, published novelist, musician, and a founding co-director of the Hanson Center for Inclusive STEM Education, Jenn Stroud Rossmann in every way embodies Lafayette’s liberal arts traditions.

Rossmann, Baird Professor of Mechanical Engineering, was recently honored for her career’s work by the Liberal Education/Engineering & Society Division (LEES) of the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE), which presented her with its 2023 Sterling Olmsted award, recognizing those who have made distinguished contributions to the development and teaching of liberal arts in engineering education.

Prof. Jenn Stroud Rossmann

Prof. Jenn Stroud Rossmann

Presenting the award, Sean Ferguson, chair of ASEE’s Liberal Education/Engineering & Society Division, described Rossmann as “a public advocate for people who call LEES home.” He quoted from her 2014 “Chocolate and Peanut Butter” essay about engineering and a liberal arts education:

“A liberal education introduces a wide range of methods of inquiry: ‘ways of knowing’ the human condition and the world. These methods include the close, informed reading of literature, for example; the observation, ethnography, and statistical analysis of social research; and the scientific methods of observation and analysis. I believe the methods, values, and history of engineering provide another prism in the kaleidoscopic 21st century liberal education.”

Rossmann has been working across several domains of research, teaching, scholarship, and creative expression, Ferguson noted. 

“With many colleagues, she has studied exclusion and belonging in STEM, education as liberation, has taken the mantle of program chair to address inequity in engineering and uplift the voices of those marginalized by the racist, misogynist, colonialist context we work within,” he said.

“She has used fiction as a lens to investigate race, identity, Big Tech, and relationships adjacent to Silicon Valley,” Ferguson added, referencing her 2018 novel, The Place You’re Supposed to Laugh.

Rossmann “unpacks representations of science and technology in popular culture, reviews literary fiction through the lens of technology and culture concepts, and promotes inclusive STEM education in leadership roles at Lafayette College and in ASEE,” he said. 

A surprised Prof. Jenn Stroud Rossmann learns of her Olmsted award from LEES Division Chair Sean Ferguson (left) and Juan Lucena.

A surprised Prof. Jenn Stroud Rossmann learns of her Olmsted award from LEES Division Chair Sean Ferguson (left) and Juan Lucena.

“For exemplary contributions to help educators support technological citizens through advocating for inclusive STEM education and within our own division. For showing that we can productively contextualize science and technology as historical, political, and alive around us. And for being an incredible colleague and friend to many of us, we welcome Jenn Stroud Rossmann as our latest Olmsted awardee.”

Rossmann says she was surprised and humbled when the Olmsted award was announced, recognizing that her name is now listed alongside her academic heroes:

Erin Cech, associate professor, Department of Sociology, and associate professor by courtesy, Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of Michigan; Juan Lucena, director, Humanitarian Engineering Undergraduate Program, and professor, engineering, design and society, Colorado School of Mines; Jon Leydens, professor, engineering education research, Division of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences, Colorado School of Mines; Amy Slaton, Professor Emerita of History, Drexel University; Atsushi Akera, assistant professor, Department of Science and Technology Studies, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute; Donna Riley, Jim and Ellen King Dean of Engineering and Computing, University of New Mexico’s School of Engineering; Alice Pawley, professor, School of Engineering, Purdue University; and Dean Nieusma, department head and associate professor, engineering, design, and society, Colorado School of Mines.

“Their work inspires me, and it is a tremendous honor to join their ranks,” Rossmann says. “They are academic heroes to me. They are awesome people who have helped us understand and reenvision engineering education. And to be among them is just stunning.”

Receiving a high-profile award from a respected national academic organization also helps Lafayette, Rossmann says.

“When faculty here are recognized, it raises our profile and makes people more aware that there’s something special happening here,” she says, “It strengthens my commitment to the kinds of things I’m doing, which are always focused on our students.”

As a further example of how such recognition helps advance Lafayette’s stature, Rossmann recalls winning the best paper award at the ASEE conference two years ago for her work with Mary Armstrong, Charles A. Dana Professor of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies and English, on curricular interventions to improve empowerment and equity for women, people of color, and other groups minoritized in STEM fields. 

Rossmann notes that the supportive feedback at the conference bolstered ongoing efforts at Lafayette. “It helped us lobby for a stronger role in the curriculum for that kind of STEM studies coursework, which will benefit students at the College as a whole,” she says. 

Rossmann is proud to bring her Olmsted award to Lafayette. 

“Lafayette is a really special place to be actively thinking about liberal arts and engineering, and how they inform each other,” she says. “And it’s nice to have Lafayette College on an awards list like this, because we’ve been doing really innovative and cool things for a long time.”


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