At a recent Student Government Association forum I attended with President Alan Cramb, a student asked what we are doing to bring more female students to campus. While there are many facets to this, I responded in terms of the role modeling, compelling curricula, and creative problem solving that take place here.
Out of the 21 schools in the Association of Independent Technological Universities, Illinois Tech is the only one with a provost, dean of engineering, and head of computer science who are women. Role modeling is a principal vehicle for demonstrating diversity; it complements important attributes of Illinois Tech—that we are an institution that values different ideas and multiple ways of being in the world.
Illinois Tech’s long history as a progressive higher-education institution continues today with the appointment of numerous women leaders across the university who are at the apex of their fields. Each of them is also building the leading edge of disciplinary pedagogical innovation and practice. Prominent members of this academic STEM community include:
- Armour College of Engineering Dean Natacha DePaola, whose research investigates the role of physical mechanisms on cellular behavior, is chair-elect of the Global Engineering Deans Council. She will assume the role of GEDC chair this October. A signature program at Illinois Tech under her leadership—the Engineering Themes initiative focused on water, health, energy, and security—has transcended the ordinary focus on STEM by creating a novel cross-disciplinary culture shift within Armour College.
- Known for her path-breaking work on obesity and aging, Lewis College of Human Sciences Dean Chris Himes is leading new ways of thinking at the intersection of the humanities and technology. She encourages research and teaching that brings a cultural awareness to the rapid advances in technology we witness today.
- Eunice Santos, chair of the Department of Computer Science, has further developed a thriving data sciences program as well as helped initiate a new decision sciences program. The number of computer science professional society fellows and government-sponsored awardees has grown by 50 percent since Eunice joined the university in 2015.
Many senior-level women leaders are working to ensure that our students derive the very most from their academic experience. These include renowned faculty, chairs, associate deans and directors, and leadership staff. Sharon Bostick, our dean of libraries, is most proud of the library’s incredibly high rankings in student satisfaction surveys. Through her own research she has developed the Library Anxiety Scale, a statistically valid instrument demonstrating the most significant factor in lowering anxiety is human interaction. This finding has informed staffing strategy.
All of our academic leaders give as much weight to the successes of their students, faculty, and units as they do to their own personal trajectories. Given that as a framework, our academic leaders have exemplary relationships with outstanding senior administrators. Katie Stetz, vice provost for student affairs and dean of students, is a respected academic team member. Faculty call upon her office for advice about students and make referrals to her departments at an increasing rate every year. Collaboration with the Office of Academic Affairs has been key.
Under Betsy Hughes, vice president for institutional advancement, more than $400 million in philanthropic funding has been raised. This is critical in supporting the mission of Illinois Tech. Vice President for Finance and Administration Pat Laughlin has built a powerful and sustainable base to strengthen the university’s finances. And alumni such as Andrea Berry (CS ’84) and Susan Solomon (CHEM ’77) inspire our students to create new STEM traditions even after they leave Illinois Tech.
The goal across all of our fields is to build a strong environment for success. Outstanding role models who excel across the breadth of academic domains in STEM-related fields provide ambitious and varied paths for achievement.