College of Engineering Promotes Dr. Andrea L. Welker
Villanova University’s Andrea L. Welker, P.E., PhD, was recently promoted to Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering, making her the first woman in the department to achieve the rank of full professor. Dr. Welker joined the University as an assistant professor in 1999 and was named associate professor in 2005. She earned her PhD in Civil Engineering from the University of Texas at Austin, and received both her Bachelor and Master’s degrees from Drexel University. After spending two years at Drexel as a research and teaching assistant, Dr. Welker took a geotechnical engineering position with the global infrastructure firm Gannett Fleming.
Dr. Welker teaches a number of undergraduate and graduate courses for the College, including Geology for Engineers, Soil Mechanics and Geosynthetics. As the lead faculty member of the Villanova Urban Stormwater Partnership (VUSP) — one of five focus areas within the Villanova Center for the Advancement of Sustainability in Engineering (VCASE) — she actively researches the geotechnical aspects of stormwater control measures (SCMs). The Environmental Protection Agency, RMC Foundation, William Penn Foundation and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PADEP) are among Dr. Welker’s recent research sponsors, and she has published more than 20 peer-reviewed journal articles based on her work.
Advice for Life in Academia
Recognizing her fourteen years on the College of Engineering faculty, Engineering Operations Manager Sonali Joshi, MS, MA, EIT asked Dr. Welker what advice she would give to those interested in a university teaching career. For junior faculty, Professor Welker stressed the importance of “doing what you want to do.” She explains, “If the university likes it, you belong there. If they don't like it, then maybe your true home is somewhere else.” She also encourages “finding a mentor or role model whose values are similar to yours.”
Speaking to students interested in an academic career, Dr. Welker’s advice is to thoroughly investigate what the job requires and entails. Her suggestion: “Talk to professors candidly about what they do in a typical day, and find a group of people with whom you work well. The entire world is moving towards more collaborative relationships and we need to model that for our students.”
Women in Engineering
When asked to address the topic of women in engineering, Dr. Welker reflects on the changes she has seen in her years at the University: “When I came to Villanova, I was the first woman to join the Civil Engineering faculty. Fourteen years later about a third of the faculty are women.” She adds, “I think the support we provide for one another is critical to our success.” Dr. Welker is also happy to point out that the high percentage of female Civil Engineering faculty is reflected in the above average number of female students in the program. She believes it is extremely important for aspiring female engineers to see women in leadership roles, both in higher education and in industry, and notes that all women can be successful in this field, regardless of the lifestyle they choose (e.g. married/unmarried, with/without children). “Our presence tells them that they can do it, too,” she says.
Dr. Welker’s short-term goals include finishing two or three papers this summer and writing the ABET (Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology) self-study for the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. She would also like to organize her home office and enjoy family time with her husband David and daughters Elizabeth, 12, and Ava, 8.