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, 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
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
“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
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
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
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
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