UCAR Communications

 

staff notes monthly

February 2004

Tom Windham soars to Washington

After eight years at the helm of the Significant Opportunities in Atmospheric Research and Science (SOARS) program, Tom Windham is leaving this month for a newly created position at NSF. UCAR has selected DLESE's Raj Pandya to replace him.

Tom Windham

Tom, as the federal agency's senior adviser for science and engineering workforce, will oversee all of NSF's efforts to broaden participation in science and engineering careers and will serve as NSF's principal liaison to minority- serving institutions. This will give him a highly visible role in the nationwide effort to bring more minorities and women into the ranks of scientists.

“I am deeply honored,” Tom says. “I look forward to vigorously supporting NSF's efforts to develop a highly competent and diverse scientific and technological workforce representative of the American populace and essential to our national interests.”

NSF director Rita Colwell announced the creation of the position to Congress last year and initiated the nationwide competition that resulted in Tom's selection.

“Tom's appointment is critical to our mission,” she says. “It gives the NSF front office an experienced, talented, widely respected educator and administrator to strengthen our relationship with institutions and constituencies that are of the utmost importance to America's future.”

SOARS, which is part of EO, provides research opportunities to promising undergraduates across the country (including Puerto Rico) who come from African American, Latino, Native American, or other traditionally underserved communities. The high point of the year-round activities comes each summer, when the program offers 10-week paid internships to about two dozen students, enabling them to conduct research projects with scientists at NCAR and other agencies. About 70 volunteers from UCAR and other science institutions work with SOARS staff to provide mentoring support on scientific research, scientific writing, leadership, and community life issues. Tom has overseen the program since its inception in 1996, and he has placed a steady emphasis on its acclaimed mentoring component.

Under his direction, SOARS has garnered national attention, receiving the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science and Engineering Mentoring in 2001. SOARS protégés give the program rave reviews, and many have gone on to earn higher degrees in the atmospheric sciences.

Tom has deep roots in the Boulder area. He holds a Ph.D. in psychology from CU, and he has been president of the Boulder Valley School District Board of Education and president of the Society for Descriptive Psychology. Last year, he won a Boulder Daily Camera Pacesetter Award for his work with SOARS.

“As excited as I am by this new challenge, it's certainly hard to say good-bye to all my good friends at UCAR and throughout the area,” Tom says. “But I know I'm leaving the program in good hands.”

The new director

Raj says he’s looking forward to carrying on Tom’s work and expanding the reach of SOARS. “In order for us to do a really good job with connecting science and society, we have to represent all of society,” he says.

Raj Pandya is taking over the helm at SOARS, as long-time director Tom Windham leaves for a job at NSF.

In his application letter, Raj explained, “There is a pressing need for greater diversity in the atmospheric sciences. Without a workforce that reflects the diversity of this country, atmospheric science research and education will suffer, and our atmospheric science community will not be able to participate credibly in the national and international debate about changing climate.”

Raj, who will assume his new position on February 15, received his Ph.D. in atmospheric sciences from the University of Washington in 1996. He was a postdoctoral fellow at NCAR, as well as an assistant professor at West Chester University in the Department of Geology and Astronomy. He joined DLESE in 1998, where he has worked as outreach and community relations liaison. He has also been involved with SOARS for several years, acting as both a science and writing mentor for two SOARS protégés.

“With this combination of experience, Raj brings a unique package of strong scientific background, experience with curriculum development and teaching, knowledge of educational trends and pedagogy, experience with SOARS, and strong connections with funding agencies,” EO director Roberta Johnson wrote in an all-staff e-mail message.

Raj, who grew up in Illinois, is himself a product of diversity. Both his parents are immigrants: his father was born in western India and his mother
in Belgium.
He hopes to recruit more staff to work as mentors, and he’d like to expand the organization’s education programs that reach out to minorities. He also wants to encourage UCAR’s member universities to develop programs similar to SOARS.
“I just can’t imagine any better job than trying to contribute to the next generation of people who are going to lead the sciences,” he says.

•David Hosansky


Also in this issue...

Hao Sunrise

Random Profile: Mark Tschudi

CG auditorium draws large crowds

Staffers organize women's self-protection class

Staffers win AMS awards

Short Takes

New insights into solar output

Honoring veteran staffers

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