Ralph Aldredge: Uplifting Voices in Engineering

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As part of Black History Month, the UC Davis College of Engineering is engaging our faculty and staff in considering our roles in implicit bias and systemic racism. We all play a part in addressing these long-standing issues and are making spaces to have open, collective dialogue that moves our college and university forward.

Associate Dean for Undergraduate Studies and professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering Ralph Aldredge has been a leader in the college for years in an effort to lift up student voices and ensure prospective and current students with disadvantaged backgrounds can find a pathway to excel at UC Davis.

Aldredge is also a leading researcher on combustion, fluid dynamics and bio-transport, best known for his analysis and simulation of flames. In 2017, he created a mobile app called Level Set that performs computer simulations of flame dynamics on an iPhone or iPad. His research achievements were recognized in 2020 when the American Society of Mechanical Engineers named him an ASME Fellow, an honor highlighting “significant achievements in engineering teaching, research and service in mechanical engineering or a related field.”

In parallel with his research accomplishments, Aldredge has a long history of service in undergraduate education at the department, college, campus and system-wide levels. In 2008, he served as faculty assistant to the dean for undergraduate studies. He has also served as chair of the UC Board of Admissions and Relations with Schools, which develops and reviews system-wide freshman and transfer admissions policies for approval by the UC Board of Regents.

In the 2010-2011 academic year, Aldredge led the development and implementation of the holistic-review freshman admissions policy at UC Davis as co-chair and later chair of the UC Davis Academic Senate admissions and enrollment committee.

This new admissions framework expanded access to UC Davis to applicants from disadvantaged backgrounds who have overcome hardships while achieving academic success. Today, the Holistic Review Freshman Admissions Process is widely recognized for ensuring fairness and equal opportunity in admissions, providing equitable access to education and enrollment for promising and talented students that reflect the state’s cultural and economic diversity.

In his college leadership role, Aldredge uses a data-driven approach to improve retention and graduation rates of undergraduate engineering majors with proactive advising strategies and by encouraging early engagement with project-centered learning experiences.

As part of his commitment to student success, Aldredge oversees the college’s Leadership in Engineering Advancement, Diversity and Retention (LEADR) program and the AvenueE transfer retention program. He has also served as faculty advisor to the Black Engineers Association, the UC Davis student chapter of NSBE.

“I remember joining BEA and instantly feeling like I was part of a community where I could learn a lot about how to get the most out of the UC Davis experience,” said Michael Cox, a fourth-year mechanical and aerospace engineering major and member of the Black Engineers Association at UC Davis. “The club offers numerous career development opportunities for resume review and interview practice and goes to NSBE conventions where members are able to interact with recruiters and get internships and job offers. I, myself, was able to obtain my dream internship at NASA as a result of the club opportunities.”

Earlier this month, Aldredge was awarded the 2021 NSBE Golden Torch Award for Lifetime Achievement in Academia. The Lifetime Achievement Award in Academia honors those with exceptional technical achievements and leadership in higher education. Recipients have more than 15 years of significant contributions to academic engineering development, are leaders in their campus communities and are involved in education programs that benefit African American students on a national or local level.

“To the many students who continue to inspire and challenge me to do all that I can toward enhancing the quality and impact of engineering education, I am most grateful,” said Aldredge.

Listen to a recent podcast featuring Aldredge and engineering alumnus Christopher Pribilo discuss topics related to retention, strategies for success and the importance of diversity.

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