News 2020: Diane (Belcher) Phillips '84: The power of networking
Diane (Belcher) Phillips '84: The power of networking

Diane, the newest member of the Dean of Engineering Advisory Board, talks about working with the Dean of the College of Engineering and the Women in Defense—Greater Boston Chapter to launch a scholarship for Women in Engineering at UMassD.

Diane Phillips, UMassD alum, College of Engineering
Diane (Belcher) Phillips '84, VP of Joint Research and Development--Boston

Diane (Belcher) Phillips, Vice President of Boston Operations, for Joint Research and Development (JRAD), has devoted her entire career to the development of protective clothing and equipment for National Security programs or to managing organizations that include this mission. “As such, I have been in many positions that were part of a male-dominant team, so I know what it is like to be a minority working in a STEM field,” she said. Diane earned her BS degree in Textile Technology with a minor in Mechanical Engineering Technology at UMass Dartmouth and her Masters of Textile Science from North Carolina State University.

During her time as an undergraduate student, she served as the vice president of the class of 1984 and subsequently on the Textile Advisory Committee to help transition Textile Sciences into the College of Engineering. “When I heard there was a new female dean for the College of Engineering, Dr. Jean VanderGheynst, I just had to meet her,” she said. “You see, while I was at UMass Dartmouth, I was the only female in my engineering classes, although there were a few other females in the engineering programs.” Diane also currently serves as events chair for the UMassD Alumni Association, is the VP of STEM for the Women in Defense-Greater Boston Chapter (WID-GBC), and is the newest member of the Dean of Engineering Advisory Board where she works closely with Jean.

Co-creating a scholarship for women in engineering

Realizing a shared vision for creating opportunities for women interested in the fields of engineering, Diane and Jean along with Charlene Mello, chief scientist at the US Army Combat Capabilities Development Command – Soldier Center (CCDC-SC) in Natick and scholarship committee chair of WID-GBC, created a scholarship for women in engineering at UMass Dartmouth. “Jean told me she wanted to put on a student event during fall 2019,” Diane said. “I was, and still am, a member of the board of WID-GBC, which readily develops meaningful events. So we immediately connected the dots and started working together to create the first UMass Dartmouth/WID-GBC event. We were so pleased with the results. We had a great panel of women working in the defense industry, and a speed networking session that Jean beautifully moderated. Several sponsors attended and we had a fabulous interactive dinner during a Q&A session with the panel.” 

The keynote speaker was the National Director of Women in Defense, Rachel McCaffrey, who traveled from Washington, DC to participate. “She subsequently invited me to the National Defense Industrial Association and WID Conference in DC to present the event as a model for other chapters to emulate. At the end of the first event, we were pleasantly surprised that we had a $1,000 profit and this enabled the establishment of the WID-GBC/UMassD Scholarship for Women in Engineering.”

This year is the inaugural year of the scholarship, which has been awarded to LeYi (Emily) Chen. The goal is to raise $5,000 over each of the next five years to create an endowed scholarship. “I feel great that we can help deserving women in engineering,” Diane said. “I would hate to think that there is someone who cannot make it through a state university due to financial hardship, so any help we can give is wonderful. And we are still looking for more sponsors to reach our $5,000 goal.”

How you can become involved

Interested in becoming a sponsor for the WID-GBC/UMassD Scholarship for Women in Engineering? Please contact Diane (Belcher) Phillips at or Alumni Relations at You can also visit Women and Negotiation to learn more about the collaboration between UMassD Alumni Relations, the College of Engineering, and Women in Defense-Greater Boston Chapter.