Alumni Excellence: Barbara Mizdail

SAE International has honored Barbara E. Mizdail, UA alumna and senior lecturer in the mechanical engineering department at Pennsylvania State University, with the 2014 Excellence in Engineering Education Award

A Pioneering Woman at UA

“I had a pretty interesting career and it all started at the U of A!” said Mizdail, who received her bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering in 1972.

Mizdail was the first female president of the UA Engineering Council. She was also a member of the first pledge class for the nation's first engineering sorority, Beta Rho Delta, which was founded at UA in 1967. "Back then only about half of a percent of engineers were women. ... It was a big deal to start an engineering sorority,” she said.

She remembers her undergraduate days fondly.

“At the end of the year during Engineers Week, we always had a tug of war with the agriculture college, and one year we had the rope hooked up to a Jeep so we pulled all the aggies in the mud.”

Barbara Mizdail in the machine shop, displaying a hand drill she made for a class.
Beta Rho Delta's informal rush at Himmel Park on Sunday, Oct. 4, 1967.Making a Mark in Industry

Mizdail was a founding member of the Women Engineers Committee in the Society of Automobile Engineers, and one of the first women in the Chrysler Institute Automotive Engineering Program, through which she received a master's degree from the University of Michigan.

After her time at Chrysler, she went to Ford Motor Co. 

“Every year I got a new leased car for free," she recalls. "One year I got a turbo '78 Mustang.”

In 1990, she became a manager of systems engineering at Lehigh University, where she acted as a liaison between industry partners and the engineering researchers at the Center for Manufacturing Systems Engineering.

Then, in 2000, she took a position as senior product engineer at Dana Corp., where she supervised CAD designers and coordinated special projects for customers. 

Educating the Next Generation of Engineers

In 2001, she started teaching mechanical engineering and technology courses at the Berks campus of Penn State, where she also advised the SAE student chapter.

After she retired from full-time teaching in December 2015, the university asked her if she would continue teaching first-year courses. Happily to accept, Mizdail still leads the First Year Experience for Engineers at Penn State Berks. 

“My goal in the final chapter of my life is to advance engineering education and to increase the number of women in the industry."

Photos provided by Barbara Mizdail 

University of Arizona College of Engineering