Texas Tech University

Research Spotlight on Women Faculty: Vickie Sutton and Eleanor von Ende

March 30, 2020 |  

During March, Texas Tech is celebrating women faculty who exemplify excellence in research, scholarship, creative activity, teaching, and mentoring.

Vickie Sutton
Associate Dean for Digital Learning and Graduate Education; Paul Whitfield Horn Professor; School of Law

vickie sutton

Sutton is the Paul Whitfield Horn Professor of Law and Director of the Center for Biodefense, Law and Public Policy, the only center at a law school in the U.S. to focus solely on issues of law and biodefense, biosecurity and bioterrorism. She established the Law and Science Certificate Program with unanimous support of the faculty, and directs the JD/MS Program in Environmental Toxicology; Biotechnology; Agriculture and Applied Economics and the JD/MEng.

What inspired you to work in your field/area of expertise?

I started early wanting to pursue science, and entered all the science fairs, and won my county and state awards for several years starting in the 8th grade to high school. My undergraduate degrees were in Animal Science and Zoology, but I was also elected to the student Judicial Board for two years during my undergraduate years, which foreshadowed my law and science future. My graduate degrees reflected that pathway when I completed a Master's degree in Public Administration and then an interdisciplinary Ph.D. in Environmental Sciences. I was fortunate enough to be appointed to a dream job at the U.S. EPA and then the White House Science Office as an Environmental Science Analyst. It was during this time that I realized that science really needed to work well with law and regulation or nothing would move forward. I also observed lawyers who were causing unnecessary problems because they did not understand science or how to work with scientists. I decided at that point to make it my career to teach science to lawyers. My first focus was on biosecurity law which led to my specialty in that field.

Who inspired you to pursue academia?

My mentor and Ph.D. advisor and chair of my committee at The University of Texas at Dallas, Joe Moore, who is a legend in water law and science in Texas.

What would you tell your female students interested in pursuing an academic career?

Find your passion and pursue it. All kinds of obstacles will arise, and you have to learn to keep moving forward, never stop. You should also be open to new challenges, but pursue them with enthusiasm and passion, if you decide they are worthwhile. Even as a graduate student, you will be asked to do a lot of service, and it may seem overwhelming but learn to see the big picture and you will not only get through it, but you will do it in an extraordinary way.

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Eleanor von Ende
Associate Professor; Director of Undergraduate Studies; Department of Economics

What inspired you to work in your field/area of expertise?

My main field is Economics, specifically Microeconomic Theory. I have always loved mathematics and when I was in high school, it was suggested to me that Economics is very mathematical and that I might like it as a discipline, instead of pure math. That advice inspired me to I take my first Economics course in my first semester of college and I NEVER looked back. I had an excellent instructor for that course, whose teaching style suggested the many possibilities beyond that course. The tools learned when studying economics are inherently useful to tackle economic problems of course, but the tools, particularly strategic thinking, is also inherently useful in (virtually) every aspect of life. Consequently, I believe that every student benefits from taking economics - and retains the basic approach taken by economists - EVEN if they don't always realize it!

Who inspired you to pursue academia?

I think my inspiration first came from my parents who both taught at the college level, though they were both in Fine Arts. I grew up attending university functions and recitals, and so it was a natural extension for me to remain in a university environment for as long as I could! This eventually meant pursuing my own Ph.D. and becoming an academic as well. My professors also reinforced this calling, as they encouraged me at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. I learned a little bit and was inspired by all of them, even the ones that didn't seem that inspirational at the time! My first mentor as a graduate TA (Thomas Weiss) also became my dissertation advisor and he was probably the most influential because he most affected my teaching and my research.

As an economist, there are plenty of alternatives to academia, but I really did not seriously consider these possibilities. I truly love the university community with the energy and opportunities that come with the environment - both in teaching and in research - as much now as when i started my academic career.

What would you tell your female students interested in pursuing an academic career?

One of the biggest issues in Economics is that female economists remain a significant minority in academics and advancement in academics is also at a much lower level than for male counterparts. For much of my time as a graduate student, there was not even a female faculty member in my department and there was only one other female student in my cohort. This issue still remains ( even though perhaps not to the extreme extent I experienced ). For that reason, I believe is it crucial in ECONOMICS to attend professional conferences where women present even when the topic might not otherwise appeal. And, of course, at the end of the session, meet the panelists and make contacts with some of those that will be maintained in the future. After my first conference presentation, I was eating lunch alone, when one of the leading women in one of my sub- fields asked if she could sit down and join me. She was so gracious with her time and gave me such wonderful advice , that it gave me both a role model that I had not had and a sense of belonging that has stayed with me until now.

 

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