Distinguished Engineering Educator
Yvette E. Pearson, Ph.D., P.E.
For being a dedicated educator and mentor; for making civil engineering accessible, attainable, and inclusive; and for a deep commitment to students’ success and well-being.
Yvette E. Pearson, Ph.D., P.E., was associate dean for accreditation, assessment, and strategic initiatives at the George R. Brown School of Engineering at Rice University from 2016 until August 2021. Before joining Rice, she was a program director in the Division of Undergraduate Education at the National Science Foundation, managing a multimillion-dollar awards portfolio. In August 2021, Dr. Pearson joined The University of Texas at Dallas as vice president for diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI).
Originally from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, she holds a B.S. in civil engineering and an M.S. in chemistry from Southern University, a graduate certificate in educational research methodology from the University of Illinois Chicago, and a Ph.D. in engineering and applied science from The University of New Orleans. She is a registered professional engineer in Louisiana and a commissioner for the Engineering Accreditation Commission of ABET.
Dr. Pearson’s 26-year career as an engineering educator spans beyond the lecture hall. She has made an imprint in curricula, accreditation, recruitment, retention, research, and inclusive education. Her emphasis on inclusion comprises women, historically underrepresented racial and ethnic minorities, students from low-income backgrounds, and persons with disabilities. As a Black disabled woman in engineering, she knows firsthand the challenges steeped in the profession.
Former students describe her as a proponent for change and inclusive decision-making. Dr. Pearson’s conversation with SWE collegiate leaders at Rice led to the School of Engineering’s increased focus on DEI, which included a formal shift in her role to lead DEI-focused strategic initiatives that built on her history of accomplishments in that area. This included the establishment of the school’s committee on diversity, equity, and inclusion, which she chaired until her departure from Rice.
A fellow and active member of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), Dr. Pearson is the inaugural chair of Members of Society Advancing an Inclusive Culture (MOSAIC), the ASCE’s board-level advisory council formed in 2019 to provide leadership for DEI within the profession. Prior to MOSAIC, she was vice chair of the Committee on Diversity and Inclusion and was part of the team that first introduced DEI into ASCE’s Code of Ethics in 2017. She provided specific leadership for the principle that requires engineers to consider community diversity and include diverse perspectives in their work. MOSAIC worked to ensure those principles were integrated throughout the recently revised code in 2020. Under Dr. Pearson’s leadership, MOSAIC also significantly revised an ASCE policy, which is now “Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion.”
Dr. Pearson has received multiple awards for her work in engineering education and practice. The most recent include the ABET Claire L. Felbinger Award for Diversity and Inclusion; ASCE’s Professional Practice Ethics and Leadership Award; and the President’s Medal, one of the highest honors awarded by the ASCE.
In 2020, she took her expertise to the airwaves to launch Engineering Change, a podcast focused on employing DEI best practices in engineering education. The bimonthly podcast has an audience in more than 50 countries on six continents.
Dr. Pearson is a devoted mother and daughter who enjoys singing, songwriting, and performing. She wrote, produced, and with her brother, performed “Inspired,” the theme song for her podcast.