LEGACY Program helps scholars develop meaningful connections with faculty

Posted: January 30, 2023

One thing that helps attract a diverse student body is having a diverse teaching body. In 2021, the College of Engineering introduced the Leading Engineering as Agents of Change and Equity (LEGACY) Postdoctoral Scholars Program with the goal of representing and helping minority scholars. By doing this, the College of Engineering increases diversity, mentoring relationships, research and a sense of community.  

This two-year program is designed to help postdoctoral scholars prepare for a faculty position. There are currently eight postdoctoral scholars, or mentees, in the program. Each is paired with current faculty members from the college who serve as their mentors.  

A mentee in this program can have four different types of mentors: traditional, nontraditional, personal and out of the box. Center for Automotive Research (CAR) Director Giorgio Rizzoni participates in this program as a secondary, nontraditional mentor for Civil, Environmental and Geodetic Engineering Postdoctoral Scholar Martina Leveni. Rizzoni is a nontraditional mentor to her in the sense that he and she specialize in different kinds of engineering — Rizzoni in mechanical and Leveni in civil, environmental and geodetic engineering.  

While this isn’t Rizzoni’s forte, he still has a lot to offer Leveni as a mentor. He is an accomplished scholar and professor, which Leveni would like to be someday. He mentors her in teaching/education, but can also offer advice on attracting research, working on a team, developing ideas and approaching writing proposals. They also share an Italian origin. Regarding their differences in specializations, he says, “In the big scheme of things, it has to do with sustainability and energy and creating a cleaner earth. So, I’m really interested in it.”  

Martina and Giorgio in the hydrogen fuel cell charging station
CAR Director Giorgio Rizzoni participates in the LEGACY program as a secondary, nontraditional mentor for Postdoctoral Scholar Martina Leveni.

Overall, he is trying to help her figure out the elements that would make her successful, the day that she becomes an assistant professor.  

“The long starting premise to the whole LEGACY program is how do we attract people who are going to be future success stories? The answer is to give them role models,” says Rizzoni. 

Leveni says, “I grew a lot as a scientist, academic and person since I started LEGACY program, and the best is yet to come! This program provided me with many resources to succeed and build my independent research directions, always valuing diversity, equity and inclusion in my path.” 

This is Leveni’s second year with the program. She is part of the first cohort of LEGACY scholars. 

Written by CAR Writing Intern, Cassie Forsha

Category: Faculty