Marek Dollár, dean of Miami University’s College of Engineering and Computing (CEC), will step down from his position on July 31, 2020.
Since arriving at Miami in 2000, Dollár has dedicated 20 years to leading CEC. When he assessed his years spent as dean, he decided it was time to return to his teaching and researching roots.
A search committee made up of various faculty and administrators has narrowed down the search to three candidates. Jennie Gallimore, Paul Orkwis and Beena Sukumaran all visited Miami in the past two weeks.
In addition to open faculty sessions, undergraduate/graduate student sessions were held for the candidates to share their plans and ideas for CEC, were they to get the job. These sessions, attended by CEC students, professors and other faculty aimed to introduce candidates to the people they could one day be working with.
If selected as the dean for CEC, Jennie Gallimore wants to foster an environment of collaboration and inclusion.
She earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree in psychology from California State University, Northridge, and a doctorate in industrial engineering and operations research, with a specialization in human factors.
Gallimore is the dean of the College of Technology, Architecture and Applied Engineering (CTAAE) at Bowling Green State University, where she has worked for two years. Before that, she was at Wright State University, where she was the associate dean of the College of Engineering and Computer Science for 29 years.
“She is a great person to work with. She has done a lot of great things here at Bowling Green and it has been a good experience working with her,” Todd Waggoner, associate dean of CTAAE, said.
Galligore said the first thing she would do if chosen for the position is listen to students and faculty about what they want out of CEC, so she’ll know how to best serve them. She also thinks it is important that students collaborate more, so they get a better understanding of what a workplace setting will be.
“Engineering problems are very complicated,” Gallimore said. “They can’t be solved by one type of engineer, or just engineers. We have to collaborate with people in the domains where the problems exist.”
She said she would collaborate with other deans to get projects, classes and clubs together that involve a range of students trying to solve difficult problems, to get students accustomed to what their future jobs will expect.
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Gallimore believes diversity of thought often comes with a diversity of people. As a woman in engineering, she said she has been subjected to belittlement and wants to foster an environment in CEC where that would not happen to women or minorities.
“Sometimes it’s time to have a new perspective,” Gallimore said. “I think as a woman, I bring in a new perspective because I’ve been through some of these hard conversations.”
Paul Orkwis wants to make CEC a more innovative, connected and inclusive department.
Orkwis is an aerospace engineer. He started as an interim department head in civil engineering at University of Cincinnati. At UC he co-founded a joint institute in China and worked there for four years.
“I’ve learned a bunch on the way,” Orkwis said. “I learned what motivates people and how that’s different for each person. Everyone has an innate need to be heard and valued. Both sides [in a discussion] are important.”
Because of this, he wants to make sure CEC is transparent. He wants to be transparent with faculty about the department’s budget and wants to be in constant communication with students, asking for feedback to achieve the highest graduation rate among CEC students.
“My top three priorities are the students. The students, the students and the students. They are the most important,” Orkwis said.
Orkwis believes Miami has a great foundation to build on and strengthen CEC.
“It’s early, but I was surprised that the numbers were kind of small [for the department],” Orkwis said. “It’s kind of your part to create engagement. You have to spend some time making these things visible to the world.”
As dean for CEC, Orkwis wants to gather resources, research and opportunities for students to achieve the most and succeed further in life.
“As an engineer, you have to think what the real problem is. Real innovation happens because you do have constraints,” Orkwis said.
Beena Sukumaran, the current vice president of research at Rowan University, hopes to apply the skills she’s learned over the years to CEC.
After earning her doctorate from Purdue University, she joined Rowan’s engineering department in 1998, where she has worked for the last 22 years. She also worked as the study abroad advisor for engineering students, and served as a president’s fellow specializing in diversity and inclusion in 2017.
Sukumaran hopes to take past successful policies that she’s been involved in and implement them at Miami.
These strategies include a peer mentoring program for students, as well as a faculty mentoring program called Advocates and Allies, where majority faculty advocate for minority faculty.
Sukumaran hopes to increase diversity in CEC and to stress the point that anyone can be an engineer.
“We are saying that engineering can be done by anyone,” she said. “Anybody, with whatever walk of life you come from, with whatever disability status you might have or whatever socioeconomic status you come from. So we try to feature these diverse role models, and we have also done that with our curriculum.”
Sukumaran supports the idea that students become well-rounded by taking classes outside of their primary study. She hopes to tackle engineering classes from a global viewpoint, encouraging students to view the “bigger picture” in life.
When asked about her vision for CEC, Sukumaran explained that she can’t form a clear idea without hearing from current students and faculty.
“I couldn’t come up with a good goal or vision because I need to understand your institutional context,” she said.
She does have some elements that she would like to bring to CEC, though, such as utilizing a teacher-scholar approach to learning, funding studies for faculty and students, and creating a diverse student body and an inclusive culture in CEC.
“In this current position as VP, I don’t get to see the students, and I don’t have an impact on curriculum,” Sukumaran said, explaining why she wants to work at Miami.
“I know of the program, and it closely aligns with what I believe in.”