Whether you like college rankings or not, it’s hard to deny their influence on how institutions of higher education are perceived by students, parents, faculty, alumni, donors, and the media. Unfortunately the most prominent source for rankings overlooks a very important factor. That’s why I penned an op-ed for Inside Higher Ed making the case that U.S. News & World Report should include diversity as part of its ranking methodology. Please take a few minutes to read it.
Defining Tomorrow, the Strategic Plan of the College of Engineering, contains a vision statement that asserts that the College “… is globally recognized as the preferred institution … for all faculty who seek the best possible environment and opportunity for interdisciplinary and impactful research.” Also, a key objective outlined in the plan is to “sustain and enhance excellence in scholarship and research.” In so doing, the plan illuminates and reinforces the fact that identifying and recruiting world-class scholars to join our faculty is one of the most important functions of the dean’s office.
The future of Georgia Tech rests on assembling a distinguished faculty because it will be those individuals who help shape and define us in the decades to come. Recognizing our ability to establish and maintain world leadership in addressing some of the most challenging problems facing our society today requires us to seek opportunities to be impactful in both the educational and research arenas. These world-class scholars will help strengthen our efforts to attract and retain an excellent student body.
While there are a great many technological challenges facing society, our sights are set in the near term on defining the future in three key areas.
Energy: Few industries influence the quality and prosperity of human life as much as energy. Of the 14 Grand Challenges for Engineering espoused by the National Academy of Engineering, arguably six either directly or indirectly deal with energy-related issues. Energy research at Georgia Tech spans a continuum from generation to storage to conversion to transmission and distribution to efficiency. In partnership with the Strategic Energy Institute, the College of Engineering will seek to build upon existing strength and seek interdisciplinary contributors to address these important issues in the upcoming hiring cycle.
Autonomy: Autonomy is worldwide trend affecting nearly every sector of commerce, including manufacturing, transportation, and consumer goods, just to name a few. In collaboration with the Institute for Robotics and Intelligent Machines, the College of Engineering will seek to bolster its already impressive portfolio of expertise in various aspects of robotics, machine learning, and interaction with autonomous systems.
Data-enabled Design and Manufacturing: Data science (or “big data”) is an area of tremendous potential for which the ultimate applications and outcomes remain largely untapped. In our next hiring cycle, the College of Engineering will endeavor to identify individuals capable of using data science to advance such disparate areas as systems design, materials & manufacturing, the “Internet of Things,” and life sciences.
Here at Georgia Tech, we conduct research that addresses the challenges facing society and improves the quality of life. This requires hiring faculty members with expertise that spans disciplines, has a high probability of measurable impact, and enhances our national stature and visibility. If we are successful in our faculty search in the areas we have identified, I believe we will do exactly that. Wish us luck.
I’m honored to be a speaker at the U.S. News STEM Solution Conference in Baltimore this month, and in advance of the conference I had the opportunity to speak to U.S. News & World Report about why diversity in STEM matters, why it should matter to others, and what can and should be done about it.
Taking a few minutes to read (and/or share) the story will reinforce that this is an important subject for others as well. Here is a brief excerpt:
You’ve made diversifying STEM such a large part of your life’s work. Why?
It always concerned me, as I was going through my classes and early in my career, how very few people like me there were – African-Americans, and people of color in general, and also women. You start to wonder, is there something systemic going on? It doesn’t seem random.
Others who have experienced similar situations – as the only people of color in their classes, or the only women – have said they felt inferior or a sense they didn’t belong. What effect did it have on you?
I never felt inferior, I’m a pretty confident person. I just felt, “Why aren’t there other people?” Is it racism? Is it lack of resources? Is it a combination of the above? Preparation? I started becoming interested in finding ways to combat these issues.