LAKELAND, Fla. — Florida Polytechnic University professor Dr. Grisselle Centeno is paving the way for other women in STEM fields.

  • Dr. Grisselle Centeno selected for ELATES program
  • She is one of 22 women on faculty chosen
  • Centeno wants to inspire more women in STEM
  • More Polk County headlines

Centeno is making history by becoming the first Florida Polytech professor and one of the first two in the state to be selected for the prominent and competitive Executive Leadership in Academic Technology, Engineering, and Science (ELATES) program.

"It's inspiring, (a) humbling kind of an experience. But I am excited that I can represent our community," she said.

The prestigious fellowship is designed to advance senior female faculty members in academic STEM disciplines into effective leadership roles. This year's incoming class includes 22 women faculty from 19 different institutions across the U.S. and Canada. Centeno, born and raised in Puerto Rico, is the only Hispanic person in the group.

It's a big opportunity, considering less than 20 percent of undergrad students in STEM majors are women; even less, women of color. 

Those numbers are even lower in more advanced degrees.

Centeno wants to change those statistics, taking whatever she learns through the fellowship to become an even better role model for students and younger faculty.

"How do we emulate what we want them to be, that's the challenge that I have. I want to be a mentor for them so they can continue to be a mentor for the next generation," she said.

ELATES was created seven years ago at Drexel University in Pittsburgh. Dr. Koren A. Bedeau, vice provost for academic programs and strategic initiatives and executive director of ELATES, said she is looking forward to the new cohort of fellows.

"We are thrilled to welcome another group of exceptional women leaders. Each new class brings unique experiences and perspectives that add value to the program and expands the national network of leaders and supporters of women in academic STEM leadership," Bedeau said.