Tunxis Community College professor Karen Wosczyna-Birch, Ed.D., has been selected as one of 50 finalists for the 2018 Women of Innovation Awards by the Connecticut Technology Council (CTC). Nominated for the category of postsecondary academic innovation and leadership, she is among a group of finalists that include researchers, educators, engineers, managers, entrepreneurs and students.
She will be recognized at the 14th Annual Women of Innovation Awards gala at the Aqua Turf on March 28, where a winner in each of eight award categories will be announced. The annual awards celebrate Connecticut women accomplished in science, technology, engineering and math and those involved in volunteer efforts within their communities.
“I am honored to be recognized with this group of STEM innovators and leaders in celebrating our achievements in Connecticut and beyond, and look forward to creating more educational opportunities for young women in technology,” said Wosczyna-Birch, professor of applied technology at Tunxis, who has provided leadership in engineering and technology education for the past 30 years.
Wosczyna-Birch has held the position of state director of the CT College of Technology (COT) since 1995, a consortium of all 12 CT Community Colleges and eight public and private universities that was formed through Connecticut legislation in 1995 to establish seamless pathways in engineering and technology. Among its goals are to bring together educators and industry, and to be responsive to workforce needs in Connecticut. It also provides seamless career pathways for students to earn certificates, associate of science and bachelor of science degrees in engineering and technology disciplines statewide, with no loss of credit upon transfer.
She is also executive director and principal investigator of the COT’s Regional Center for Next Generation Manufacturing (RCNGM), one of seven National Science Foundation Advanced Technological Education Centers in the United States. Since 2004, she has received over $25 million in funding from the NSF ATE including over $10 million to create and expand the Regional Center for Next Generation Manufacturing.
Since the creation of the RCNGM in 2004, Wosczyna-Birch has implemented programs and strategies that have resulted in increases in the enrollment of underrepresented populations in STEM programs at Connecticut’s community colleges.
She has disseminated her work regionally, nationally and internationally including at the Gender Summits, an international platform to examine new evidence on how gender equity affects outcomes and solutions in science and technology.
Wosczyna-Birch’s knowledge of NSF funding has led to additional grants for the creation of high school outreach programs in engineering technologies and industry research projects for interdisciplinary and inter-institutional teams of community college and university students from COT member institutions, one of which won a national Innovative Program Award from the National Science Foundation at the High Impact Technology Exchange Conference. In 2012, she was one of five principal investigators to receive an international grant to take faculty and students to Germany for an educational and industrial four-week experience.
Wosczyna-Birch has developed national collaborations to disseminate COT and RCNGM best practices and to provide professional development opportunities to faculty. Whether arranging for faculty to visit manufacturing facilities and training centers across the United States, or bringing experts to Connecticut, she has fostered connections that incorporate the necessary skills and knowledge into new curriculum and programs in technology.
In 2012, she was Connecticut’s recipient of the New England Board of Education Higher Education Excellence Award, for her leadership in creating and implementing the statewide curriculum pathways for the College of Technology.
In 2014, Wosczyna-Birch was invited and attended the White House College Opportunity Summit which recognized leaders for their commitment to STEM education. In May 2016, she attended a Maker Faire Summit at the White House, and she currently serves as the Connecticut contact for White House Maker Movement initiatives.
For the past five years, Wosczyna-Birch has participated on higher education and manufacturing committees for the New England Council and the Advanced Manufacturing Partnership (AMP) led by the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology to make legislators aware of the needs for education and workforce development in manufacturing. She has received numerous awards and grants and has been recognized for her accomplishments as a professor and for her passion for increasing the diversity of the engineering and technology population.
Woszyna-Birch serves on many boards including the International Honor Society EPT, the National Coalition of Advanced Technology Centers, National Visiting Committees for three NSF Centers, past president/board member for the National Association for Workforce Improvement, and Hartford High School’s Academy of Engineering and Green Technology.
Tunxis Community College in Farmington is in the process of launching advanced manufacturing technology programs, coming this fall. The college offers over 60 associate degrees and certificates, including eight associate degrees with science, engineering and technology emphases, and certificates in lean manufacturing and computer aided design. Tunxis is also the recipient of a $2.4 million National Science Foundation grant that established the College of Technology’s Regional Center for Next Generation Manufacturing. For more information on the College of Technology and the Regional Center for Next Generation Manufacturing, contact Karen Wosczyna-Birch, executive director, at 860.723.0608, or [email protected]. For more information on programs at Tunxis, call 860.773.1490, or visit tunxis.edu.