NEWS
Cristi Bell-Huff Wins National KEEN Rising Star Award
 
Posted May 14, 2020 
Receives the top award of a $25,000 grant from the Kern Family Foundation 

Cristi Bell-Huff, faculty member of the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University, was named the top winner of the second annual National KEEN Rising Star Award. 
 
The KEEN Rising Star Award recognizes individuals who have gone above and beyond to equip undergraduate engineers to create personal, economic, and societal value through the entrepreneurial mindset. 
 
“Georgia Tech has a long-standing commitment to helping students develop entrepreneurial confidence,” said Georgia Tech President Ángel Cabrera. “Cristi Bell-Huff does that through leading curriculum development in the Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering and in the way she teaches the entrepreneurial mindset to engineering students. Her innovative thinking has inspired numerous students, and we congratulate her on this well-deserved award.” 
 
As the top winner, Bell-Huff will receive the top award of a $25,000 grant from the Kern Family Foundation to advance KEEN’s mission, sponsored attendance to the 2021 KEEN National Conference, a professional video of her story, and a KEEN guitar - the Rising Star award. 
 
“We have been extremely proud of the work that Dr. Bell-Huff has done across a number of our engineering schools to bring entrepreneurial skills to students,” said Georgia Tech College of Engineering Dean Steve McLaughlin. “Her leadership in this has been a tremendous asset to the College and has helped countless engineering students acquire leadership and entrepreneur-focused skills which they can use for the rest of their lives.” 
 
KEEN is a national partnership of universities with the shared mission to graduate engineers with an entrepreneurial mindset so they can create personal, economic, and societal value through a lifetime of meaningful work. KEEN was created by the Kern Family Foundation whose mission is to empower the rising generation of Americans to build flourishing lives anchored in strong character, inspired by quality education, driven by an entrepreneurial mindset, and guided by the desire to create value for others. 
 
Two additional winners of the award included Cheryl Bodnar of Rowan University, and Blake Hylton of Ohio Northern University. Bodnar and Hylton will each receive a $10,000 grant from the Kern Family Foundation to advance KEEN’s mission.
Surreal Engtanglements: Essays on Jeff VanderMeer's Fiction
This edited collection approaches the most pressing discourses of the Anthropocene and posthumanist culture through the surreal, yet instructive lens of Jeff VanderMeer’s fiction. In contrast to universalist and essentializing ways of responding to new material realities, VanderMeer’s work invites us to re-imagine human subjectivity and other collectivities in the light of historically unique entanglements we face today: the ecological, technological, aesthetic, epistemological, and political challenges of life in the Anthropocene era. Situating these messy, multi-scalar, material complexities of life in close relation to their ecological, material, and colonialist histories, his fiction renders them at once troublingly familiar and strangely generative of other potentialities and insight. The collection measures VanderMeer’s work as a new kind of speculative surrealism, his texts capturing the strangeness of navigating a world in which "nature" has become radically uncanny due to global climate change and powerful bio-technologies. The first collection to survey academic engagements with VanderMeer, this book brings together scholars in the fields of environmental literature, science fiction, genre studies, American literary history, philosophy of technology, and digital cultures to reflect on the environmentally, culturally, aesthetically, and politically central questions his fiction poses to predominant understandings of the Anthropocene.
Research Initiation:Exploring the Role of Story-Driven Learning to Foster Empathy in the Professional Formation of Engineers
Engineers solve challenging problems to help other people and better society. In order to design effective solutions engineers must employ empathy not only in their design process but also in their collaborative approach to problems. Fostering empathy in engineering students is critical for the continuing tradition of technical excellence and service to society that has characterized the professional formation of engineers in the past. Although difficult to quantify financially, empathy is an economic necessity that goes beyond responsible product design or innovation. Leadership, negotiating contracts, resolving workplace conflicts, and even marketing products successfully require seeing and experiencing the world through the eyes of others. Today’s engineering students will be asked to solve some of the world’s toughest problems. They will need to be equipped with deep technical expertise but also an empathic mindset to design solutions and facilitate authentic engagement with others. Preparing engineers equipped with an empathic mindset will result in the betterment of not only the engineering profession but society as a whole. The recognition and promotion of empathy within engineering will increase the likelihood that broader audiences will perceive engineering as a relevant, inclusive, and impactful profession. Raising awareness of empathy as an important engineering skill will contribute to a more holistic engineering profession that will attract and retain a more diverse group of students. This project seeks to advance the understanding of the development of empathy in engineering education and contribute to the further development of teaching methods proven to foster much needed empathy as part of the professional formation of engineers. 
 
Toward this end, the proposed work will explore the landscape of learning activities used to develop empathy within the Biomedical Engineering (BME) curriculum at the Georgia Institute of Technology. The BME department at Georgia Tech makes use of a wide variety of diverse learning activities within the core curriculum. Using this department as the context of our study and a multi-dimensional model of empathy as our theoretical framework, this project will employ an exploratory, embedded case study approach to explore (1) what learning activities faculty are using to foster empathy in BME courses at Georgia Tech and why, (2) how students are experiencing these learning activities, and (3) what components of empathy as a multidimensional construct are most influenced through these learning activities as compared to those components of empathy developed through story-driven learning. The project will rely on the methods of survey sampling, analysis of student work, and student interviews as multiple sources of evidence. The data from all methods of inquiry will be used to draw conclusions and compare and contrast the learning activities, faculty intentions, student experiences, and empathy development across all of these learning activities within our case study. By looking at the impact of a wide variety of learning activities on the development of empathy over the course of an undergraduate engineering program, this study will advance the understanding of the development of empathy as a multi-dimensional construct in engineering education as a whole. The project will also contribute to the further development of research-based pedagogies proven to foster empathy. Finally, this work will serve as a foundation that will provide a better understanding of the differential impact of pedagogical approaches on the development of empathy as well as inform future work towards understanding the role of story-driven learning as an innovative approach for the development of empathy as part of the professional formation of engineers. 
 
This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria. 
 
Please report errors in award information by writing to: awardsearch@nsf.gov.