Shirley M. Malcom, Penn State alumna and senior advisor at the American Association for the Advancement of Science, was recognized on April 8th at Innovation Park where the 329 Building was renamed in her honor. Dr. Malcolm is a leader in the sciences and a pioneering advocate for minorities in the sciences, especially for women and girls of color.
“Throughout my entire time studying, I attended predominantly white but major research institutions,” Dr. Malcom said. “I never had a Black faculty member within the science departments, so I know how difficult it is to become something you’ve never seen and to think about the fact that it’s possible. I think that’s what has spurred my entire career, whether it was as a faculty member or whether it was as a person at the association working on programs to try to bring more diverse populations into science.”
“Honoring Penn State pioneers and innovators have long been a part of our institutional identity,” said Penn State President Eric J. Barron. “In that spirit, I’m very pleased that the ‘329 Building’ will now be known as the ‘Shirley M. Malcom Building.’ As a noted scientist, a former presidential appointee, and a leading advocate for representation in the sciences for women and girls of color, Dr. Malcom is an inspiration to those who follow in her footsteps.”
Dr. Malcom was born in Birmingham, Alabama, where she attended schools that were segregated until she completed high school at age 16. She earned a bachelor’s degree in zoology at the University of Washington in Seattle and a masters in zoology from the University of California, Los Angeles. Dr. Malcom earned her doctoral degree in ecology from Penn State in 1974.
In 1976, Dr. Malcom co-authored the landmark report, “The Double Bind: The Price of Being a Minority Woman in Science,” which called attention to the barriers of being an African-American woman in science. Dr. Malcom has worked to increase access to education and careers in sciences for girls and women throughout her career.
Dr. Malcom received a Distinguished Alumni Award from Penn State and also served on the Penn State Graduate School Diversity Review Team. She has also served as the commencement speaker for the Penn State Eberly College of Science and as a featured speaker for the Penn State Forum, which exclusively highlights experts with demonstrated, multifaceted impact.
The building renaming is part of an initiative led by President Barron. Since 2019, Penn State has renamed campus buildings to honor alumni who have helped to break down barriers. The 328 Building in Innovation Park was named in 2019 for Warren Washington, the nation’s second African American to earn a doctoral degree in meteorology. In 2021, Innovation Park’s 230 Building was named for Col. Guion “Guy” Bluford Jr., the first African American in space.