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Sponsored by the Alabama ADVANCE Partnership for Achieving Gender Equity in STEM (APAGES), The University of Alabama at Birmingham, The University of Alabama in Huntsville, Alabama A&M University, Miles College and Oakwood University on February 19 - 20, 2023, as part of the APAGES ongoing programming activities. The Symposium will be hosted in Huntsville by the University of Alabama in Huntsville. 

The Symposium will feature speakers Viola Acoff, Ph.D., the Associate Dean for Graduate & Undergraduate Programs, College of Engineering, The University of Alabama, and Lakiesha V. Hawkins, Deputy Manager, Human Landing System Program, NASA Marshall Space Flight Center. The speakers will discuss the theme "Advancing STEM in Higher Education: Reimagining Equity and Leadership."


February 19 - 20, 2023 | 8:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m.


  • The Symposium will be held in the UAH Student Services Conference Center, Room 112.

    UAH Student Services Conference Center
    301 Sparkman Drive
    Huntsville, AL 35899

    • Viola Acoff, Ph.D
      Viola Acoff, Ph.D

      Viola Acoff, Ph.D

      Dr. Viola Acoff received her B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. degrees in Materials Engineering from the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB). She joined The University of Alabama (UA) as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Metallurgical and Materials Engineering (MTE) in 1994 and was promoted to the rank of Full Professor in 2004. In 2008, Dr. Acoff was appointed Interim Head of the Department of Chemical & Biological Engineering (ChBE). In 2009, she was appointed to serve as Head of two different departments in the College of Engineering: ChBE and MTE, a dual role she served for one year. From 2010-2014, she served solely as Head of MTE. In October 2014, Dr. Acoff was appointed Associate Dean for Undergraduate and Graduate Programs in UA's College of Engineering. She has taught undergraduate and graduate courses in welding metallurgy, physical metallurgy, and scanning electron microscopy and has an active research group involving welding metallurgy and characterization of metals.

      Dr. Acoff has published more than 80 refereed papers and has received over $13 million in research grants. She has received numerous national and international awards and recognitions including the prestigious National Science Foundation CAREER Award, and is the inaugural recipient of the Ellen Swallow Richards Diversity Award given by TMS. This award recognizes an individual who helps others to overcome personal, professional, educational, cultural, or institutional adversity to pursue a career in minerals, metals or materials. Dr. Acoff is also the recipient of the UA National Alumni Association Outstanding Commitment to Teaching Award for 2014, which is UA’s highest honor for excellence in teaching.

      With 20 years of experience working in the area of diversity and inclusion, Dr. Viola Acoff has served as Director of UA’s site of the National Science Foundation Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (LSAMP) Program since 1996. In this capacity, she spearheads activities to increase the number of science and engineering degrees awarded to students from underrepresented minority groups.

    • Lakiesha Vessel Hawkins
      Lakiesha Vessel Hawkins

      Lakiesha Vessel Hawkins

      Lakiesha Hawkins has enjoyed a rewarding career in human spaceflight for over twenty-five years. Ms. Hawkins currently serves NASA in a Senior Executive Service (SES) capacity as Deputy Manager of the Human Landing System Program. In this role, she helps lead NASA’s multi-billion-dollar mission to return Americans to the surface of the Moon. She began her career developing propulsion systems that powered the Space Shuttle, and has since served in challenging roles of increasing responsibility. Recognition of Ms. Hawkins’ career contributions include the Outstanding Leadership Medal, NASA’s second highest honor.

      Ms. Hawkins holds a bachelor's degree in Mechanical Engineering from Florida A&M University in Tallahassee, FL; and a Master's degree in Engineering Management, Industrial Engineering from the University of South Florida in Tampa.

      Ms. Hawkins is active in several professional and civic organizations. She is a senior member of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA); enjoys mentoring others both individually and with organizations such as the Women’s Economic Development Council Foundation; and has served in various capacities within chapters of The Links Incorporated, Jack and Jill of America Incorporated, and Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Incorporated.

      Ms. Hawkins is married to Mr. John Hawkins Jr., an Aerospace Engineer, and considers her role as a mother to be the most challenging yet fulfilling role she will ever play.

  • Registration for the 2023 Alabama ADVANCE Spring Symposium is now open. The registration fee for the conference is $100.00 and is non-refundable. Register here.

  • 2023 Symposium Agenda

    Click above to download the full schedule.


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