Estella Atekwana Elected to American Academy of Arts and Sciences

Estella Atekwana portrait, on deck of Social Sciences and Humanities Building
Estella Atekwana, dean, College of Letters and Science, and professor, Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences. (Karin Higgins/UC Davis)

Estella Atekwana, dean of the College of Letters and Science at the University of California, Davis, has been elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the academy announced April 24.

“I’m still absorbing it all,” said Atekwana, who is also a Distinguished Professor in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences. “This recognition carries profound meaning for both myself and my family. I owe immense gratitude to my parents who allowed me to pursue my passions in earth sciences despite their initial hopes for me to pursue a career in medicine.” 

American Academy of Arts and Sciences logo, circular, with establishment year "1780" emphasized in center

Atekwana is among the 250 new members elected to the academy in 2024, drawn from academia, the arts, industry, policy, research and science, and including more than 25 international honorary members. She joins 33 other academy members with current UC Davis affiliations, including emeriti. See the complete list here

Selected as dean of the College of Letters and Science in August 2021, Atekwana provides academic and administrative leadership for the largest college on the UC Davis campus, overseeing 37 departments and academic programs with more than 900 faculty across the arts, humanities, social sciences and mathematical and physical sciences. Previously, she served as the dean of the University of Delaware’s College of Earth, Ocean and Environment and as head of the Boone Pickens School of Geology at Oklahoma State University. 

Renowned geophysicist

Atekwana is a renowned geophysicist whose research interests include biogeophysics, near-surface geophysics, tectonics, geodynamics and continental rifting.

“Choosing a field that was predominantly male and lacked diversity presented numerous challenges, but I am indebted to the numerous collaborators who supported my ideas and, most importantly, to the many students whose hard work and long hours in the lab and the field in far regions of the Earth propelled our ideas forward,” Atekwana said. 

A fellow of the Geological Society of America and the American Geophysical Union, Atekwana has received outstanding educator awards from the Association of Women Geoscientists and the Society of Exploration Geophysicists, or SEG. Her contributions to exploration geophysics were recognized with the 2021 Reginald Fessenden Award from SEG, as well as the SEG 2020 Virtual Near Surface Global Lecturer award. She was also recently awarded an honorary degree from her alma mater, Dalhousie University. 

Atekwana is a member of the American Geophysical Union, Geological Society of America, European Association of Geoscientists and Engineers, Geochemical Society, Environmental and Engineering Geophysical Society, American Association for the Advancement of Science and the National Association of Black Geoscientists.

Founded in 1780, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences is both an honorary society that recognizes and celebrates the excellence of its members and an independent research center convening leaders from across disciplines, professions and perspectives to address significant challenges. 

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