The White House announced that Dr. William E. McHenry, a professor of chemistry at Jackson State University, has been awarded a 2020 Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring (PAESMEM) for his pioneering work on broadening participation of individuals from underrepresented groups in the sciences.
McHenry, who serves as executive director of the Mississippi e-Center Foundation, was among 11 individuals nationally who received Presidential mentoring awards, and is the only recipient from Mississippi. He earned the recognition for encouraging tens of thousands of minority students and non-minority women students to pursue careers in the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) workforce.
“Jackson State University appreciates the continuous impact Dr. McHenry has made in the field of STEM education through mentorship,” said Thomas K. Hudson, J.D., acting president of Jackson State University. “Throughout his career, he has worked tirelessly to expand opportunities for students in Mississippi and beyond. This honor recognizes his dedication to improving the lives of others.”
Touting the needs for a competitive workforce
Excited about his selection, McHenry said, “It is an honor to be recognized for the contributions that I have made mentoring directly or indirectly to tens of thousands of students. This award is also a win for Mississippi, Jackson State University, and the Mississippi e-Center@JSU.”
Colleagues, administrators, and students nominate individuals and organizations for the award based on their exemplary, sustained mentoring service. The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and the National Science Foundation (NSF) facilitate nominations and awards for the Presidential Excellence honor.
“For the United States to continue as a global leader, we must have a competitive STEM workforce that uses all our talent,” said McHenry, who was recognized for his 45 years of helping students succeed in the sciences, especially students from underrepresented groups.
Helping minorities pursue STEM degrees
McHenry’s mentoring initiatives span a wide range of activities including: assisting minorities and women students in their pursuit of graduate degrees while at Mississippi State University; helping minority students pursue undergraduate STEM degrees while at the National Science Foundation; assisting junior and high school students prepare for college while at the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning; and developing an information-sharing two-dimensional Science Diversity Center at the Oklahoma Regents for Higher Education. To support these initiatives, McHenry has secured more than $60 million in grants and contracts.
McHenry currently serves as principal investigator (PI) on a $4 million NSF STEM STARS grant designed to address the science and math teacher shortages in Arkansas, Louisiana, and Mississippi by preparing 120 science and mathematics teachers.
McHenry earned a Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry from Southern Arkansas University and a doctorate in chemistry from Mississippi State University.
As it relates to his latest honor, McHenry said, “It has been an honor for me to serve students throughout my life. By helping to diversify the STEM workforce, I can be a part of all major scientific breakthroughs, including a cure for Covid-19. Being a mentor means helping to shape brighter futures for your grandchildren and their children.”