The University Record, March 11, 1998

Comninou and Groat to receive Sarah Power Award



By Jane R. Elgass

Maria Comninou and Linda Groat will receive the Sarah Goddard Power Award at ceremonies at 4 p.m. March 18 in the Hussey Room, Michigan League. The award is sponsored by the Academic Women's Caucus and this year includes a $1,000 stipend, divided among the recipients.

The annual award is presented to members of the University community who have distinguished themselves through leadership, scholarship and sustained service on behalf of women. It honors the late Regent Emerita Sarah Goddard Power who was a particularly strong advocate for women and long committed to the Caucus.

Comninou, professor of mechanical engineering and applied mechanics, is an engineer and lawyer.

"As a researcher," her citation notes, "she has gained international recognition in the field of solid mechanics for pioneering contributions in fracture mechanics, thermoelasticity and friction problems. She has written over 90 papers on various aspects of contact and crack problems and on elastic waves at interfaces. Her name has been attached to a major finding‹the Comninou or contact zone model in fracture mechanics.

"Throughout her career in engineering," the citation notes, "she has also been a pioneer in the advancement of women. She was one of only two women faculty in the College of Engineering when she came to the U-M. She has had significant impact on the hiring of female and minority faculty in her department. From 1991-94 she served simultaneously on her department's faculty search committee and as her department's director of human resources and development. During that period, four new women faculty and one more minority faculty member were recruited into the department. Two of these women wrote: 'One strong influence in our decision to come to Michigan was that Maria had already been the pioneer for our department.'"

Groat is being recognized for her focus on gender equity in her scholarship and teaching and her continuing work as an advocate for women.

"Your scholarship on gender diversity seeks to understand those explicit and implicit aspects of architecture education that hinder or foster the success of female students and faculty," her citation reads. "In your joint work with Prof. Ahrentzen of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, you have documented the conflict between why women study architecture and the failure of many educational practices to help them achieve their goals. It is considered the definitive reference on gender in architecture education. You use your scholarship to promote inclusive curricula and pedagogy and apply your findings to your development as a teacher.

"While serving on the board of the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture," the citation continues, "you took a leadership role in helping the organization to understand the experiences of diverse populations, to articulate the benefits of diversity, and to identify practical strategies for improving diversity in architecture education."

Of her work as a mentor to women faculty and students, one student commented: "Words cannot express my sincere appreciation to you . . . you are the first woman professor in architecture that I have had the opportunity to work under . . . Thank you for rejuvenating my motivation and desire to continue in the Ph.D. program [and] thank you for genuinely caring."