Two named Faculty Fellows in provost’s office​

Two faculty members have been named Faculty Fellows in the Office of the Provost by Edward S. Macias, PhD, provost and executive vice chancellor for academic affairs.

Shelly Sakiyama-Elbert, PhD, professor and associate chair of biomedical engineering in the School of Engineering, and Heather Corcoran, MFA, associate professor of communication design in the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts, began their terms as faculty fellows in November.

They are working with Macias on important university initiatives such as:

  • Increasing faculty leadership opportunities, particularly among women and underrepresented faculty;
  • Strengthening diversity on both the Danforth and Medical campuses, including making diversity an important criterion in searches;
  • Encouraging more interdisciplinary cooperation between WUSTL centers, programs, departments and schools to enhance teaching, scholarship and service; and
  • Developing undergraduate and graduate curriculum with an emphasis on internationalization.

Macias will be stepping down from the provost position June 30.

“The Faculty Fellows in the provost’s office have provided excellent advice to me,” says Macias, who also is the Barbara and David Thomas Distinguished Professor in Arts & Sciences. “I invited Heather and Shelly to join our team because they have been very successful in their schools and involved in university leadership. Their experience and wisdom will help us make better decisions in the provost’s office.”


Sakiyama-Elbert joined WUSTL in 2000 as assistant professor. She was named associate professor in 2007 and professor in 2012. She also holds appointments in energy, environmental and chemical engineering in the School of Engineering and in surgery at the School of Medicine. She is a member of the Hope Center for Neurological Disorders in the School of Medicine and Division of Biology and Biomedical Sciences Molecular Cell Biology Program.


Sakiyama-Elbert’s research focuses on developing biomaterials scaffolds for drug delivery and stem cell transplantation to treat peripheral nerve and spinal cord injuries.

She has received numerous grants to further this research, including a five-year, $2.4 million grant from the National Institutes of Health with Susan MacKinnon, MD, the Sydney M. Jr. and Robert H. Shoenberg Professor of Surgery.

She was honored by the School of Engineering with the 2008 Dean’s Awards for Excellence in Advising and Mentoring for her work with undergraduates and a 2011 award for Excellence in Graduate Mentoring from the Graduate Student Senate and Dean of the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences.

She has served on many university committees. She was co-chair of the advisory committee for the engineering dean search in 2010 and is co-president of the Association of Women Faculty. She is a member of the Advisory Committee on Women Faculty and the provost’s Diversity Work Group Subcommittee on Leadership Development.

In an outreach effort, she has worked with St. Louis-area middle school students, primarily girls, to familiarize them with engineering as a career through a workshop coordinated by the Gifted Resource Council.


Corcoran came to Washington University in 2001 as an assistant professor and was named associate professor in 2006. She was area coordinator of communication design from 2007-09.


She is an information designer and graphic designer. Her research identifies a new, interdisciplinary role for information design in academia, balancing function and visual expression. She leads collaborative projects that position information design as a critical driver in contemporary public health and education.

Corcoran, a faculty scholar in WUSTL’s Institute for Public Health, is interested in how visual design can make health data more meaningful. She was a co-primary investigator on a project entitled “Maximizing the Social Impact of Cancer Registry Data,” funded by the National Cancer Institute, and received a grant from the Kauffman Foundation for a project in biotechnology and information design in 2006.

She is a faculty fellow in the university’s Institute for School Partnerships, an initiative that brings faculty from across campus together to work on projects in K-12 education. She co-founded WashUCity, a design partnership between undergraduates in communication design and high school students, in 2002.

In other work, Corcoran uses information design to make expressive pieces about literary history, which are linked to contemporary visualization work in the digital humanities. Her blog can be found at

In fall 2012, she was asked to lead the Sam Fox School Interaction Design Initiative, which provides all students in the university the opportunity to study human behavior as a vehicle to creating interactive tools, including smart phone apps.

Corcoran has been active on many WUSTL committees. She has served as the chair of the Faculty Senate Council and as a member the University Council, the Advisory Committee on Tenure and Academic Freedom, the Association of Women Faculty, the search committee for the College of Art dean, the Sam Fox curriculum committee and the search committee for the Public Affairs vice chancellor. She is also a member of the advisory committee for the national search for a new WUSTL provost.