Kathy Hubbard Honored at 5th Annual Women Who STEAM Awards for Community Service and Student Success

The Dallas chapter of The Links, Incorporated recognized outstanding women in science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics at their April 4th luncheon

Kathy Hubbard

In late August each year, SMU’s campus begins buzzing with activity as the fall semester begins. For Kathy Hubbard, it’s one of her favorite times of year: a new group of students are on the cusp of their first college experience, and she can potentially help shape, support, and influence their journey

I’m a believer in education, and I feel passionate about students who are working on their first college degree,” said Hubbard, SMU Lyle School of Engineering Assistant Dean, Student Success and Inclusive Excellence. “Especially those who are first generation in their family to go to college. Their first degree will be such a launching pad for the rest of their lives – for their graduate degree, their Ph.D., their career, or whatever they will go on to do.”

Hubbard, who has worked at SMU for more than 22 years, has spent her career focused on how to help students thrive in higher education. At SMU Lyle, she established leadership development and mentorship programs, led hands-on community service projects that teach students to work together with communities to solve problems, and increased the number of students representing traditionally minoritized groups in engineering.

She was recently honored at the Dallas chapter of The Links, Incorporated’s 5th annual Women Who Steam awards, which recognizes outstanding women in the fields of science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics (STEAM). The Links, Incorporated is one of the oldest and largest volunteer service organizations committed to enriching, sustaining, and ensuring the culture and economic survival of African Americans and other people of African ancestry.

“Coming to the engineering school at SMU 22 years ago and not being an engineer, and being a Black woman, was and sometimes still is very intimidating,” Hubbard said. “My focus was to implement programs for students, which I think I’m very good at – the creative side of me shines in those opportunities. Almost every program outside of the classroom for students here at SMU Lyle is something that I have put in place.

Cultivating Engineering Leaders

Before joining SMU, Hubbard was Vice President of a technical school in Fort Worth, which is now Remington College. She joined the engineering school in 2001 as the Co-op Director and a year later became the Director of Student Experience and Enrollment Management, where she evaluated what the holistic student journey looked like and determined how to shape it more intentionally

She oversaw and implemented new leadership programs, mentorship opportunities, networking events, career fairs, recruiting events and more. In 2007, with a new strategic plan from the dean, she shifted focus away from recruiting to dedicate her efforts entirely to students and to the creation of a new center for engineering leadership.

I feel passionate about doing something extra for students, because SMU is expensive, Hubbard said. “The students come here to network, engage, and develop as leaders – and SMU is a place you can do that, because it’s small enough. Yes, there are mentoring programs at larger schools in Texas, but it’s such a competition in a space like that. At our school, we’re waving our hands and saying,Come be a part of this!’ To me, that’s the value add.”

Empowering Students to Thrive 

In 2020, Hubbard began focusing on diversity, equity, and inclusion at SMU Lyle. The school sought outside consulting and conducted listening sessions with Black faculty, staff and students about challenges within the school’s culture. 

“When I was the advisor for SMU’s chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers, I remember we were planning an event one day and I realized that all the members except the president had left engineering – they were in math, or psychology, or another major. It caused me to pay attention and disaggregate the data. I realized that our Black engineering students were not being retained.”

Dr Rola

As a result of the feedback from students during the listening sessions, SMU Lyle developed the Thrive Scholars peer mentoring program in 2021 for first-year and transfer students who identify as first-generation college students, Pell Grant-eligible, or historically underrepresented racial and ethnic minorities in the fields of engineering or computer science. The program hosts weekly events and seminars that cover a range of topics designed to support students’ transition to SMU Lyle, including imposter syndrome and stress management, and introduces mentees to student support services

Thrive has built a community and systems of support for students – whether they just need help understanding how to communicate with another student, or determining what class they should take, or letting someone know that they are having financial problems, or just getting involved at SMU,” said Hubbard, who is the program’s champion. “One of the things I’m most proud of is that with Thrive, underrepresented students are tapping into SMU and Lyle and getting connected with leaders in Dallas. It used to be that Black and brown students were not in the room, and now with Thrive, they are at the center and having the same experiences as all other students.

Teaching through Service

In South Dallas, a solar farm at St. Philips School and Community Center provides fresh, organic vegetables to families experiencing food insecurity. All systems in the garden are powered through solar energy to avoid producing air pollution, water pollution and greenhouse gases. It’s watered by a combination of aquaponics and drip irrigation to mimic the natural ecosystem and eliminate waste and toxic chemicals.

The technology was implemented by SMU Lyle students who sought to innovate community farming practices, all under Hubbard’s guidance. 

“My approach to leadership development has been through doing and serving so that students can learn from the community and work together with them to solve problems,” she said.

From building wheelchair ramps to conducting energy audits for residents across Dallas, Hubbard has instilled an appreciation for service-learning into students at SMU Lyle, who are changed for the better from knowing her. 

What fuels me is that each year there is a new group of students that we have the opportunity to influence,” she said. “I love being a part of that cycle and support system.”

About the Bobby Lyle School of Engineering
SMU's Lyle School of Engineering thrives on innovation that transcends traditional boundaries. We strongly believe in the power of externally funded, industry-supported research to drive progress and provide exceptional students with valuable industry insights. Our mission is to lead the way in digital transformation within engineering education, all while ensuring that every student graduates as a confident leader. Founded in 1925, SMU Lyle is one of the oldest engineering schools in the Southwest, offering undergraduate and graduate programs, including master’s and doctoral degrees.

About SMU
SMU is the nationally ranked global research university in the dynamic city of Dallas. SMU’s alumni, faculty and nearly 12,000 students in eight degree-granting schools demonstrate an entrepreneurial spirit as they lead change in their professions, community and the world.