To Learn From and Celebrate: Academy for Engineering Education Leadership Established

Academy for Engineering Education Leadership
Academy for Engineering Education Leadership
Karl Smith and Sarah Rajala were inducted as the inaugural members of the Academy of Engineering Education Leadership on Thursday, Sept. 27.

Michigan Technological University's newly formed Academy of Engineering Education Leadership welcomed its first two members.

Induction ceremonies for the inaugural class of Michigan Tech University’s Academy for Engineering Education Leadership took place Thursday, Sept. 28. Hosted by the College of Engineering, the induction and accompanying reception were held in the Opie and Van Pelt Library.

Sarah Rajala and Karl Smith were the first two inductees of the newly formed academy. Janet Callahan, dean of the College of Engineering, presided over the induction ceremonies. In her opening comments, Callahan explained the motivation behind the creation of the new Academy stating, “Excellence in teaching can be learned. Excellence in learning can be taught. We owe it to our students to teach with excellence and to foster the wonder of discovery and problem solving from the moment each student sets foot on campus. Our new Academy for Engineering Education Leadership, serves two purposes. We are here today to learn from and celebrate the legacy of our two inaugural inductees.”

An International Leader

Rajala, an internationally known leader in the field of engineering education, is currently the James L. and Katherine S. Melsa Dean of Engineering at Iowa State University. She is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET), American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE).

A past chair of the Global Engineering Deans Council, Rajala earned her bachelor’s in electrical engineering from Michigan Tech in 1974. She went on to earn a MS and PhD from Rice University.

She received the national Harriett B. Rigas Award honoring outstanding female faculty from the Educational Education Society of the IEEE in 2015. A year later, Rajala was named National Engineer of the Year by the American Association of Engineering Societies.

A ground breaker for women in engineering, she serves as a role model for young women and is passionate about diversity of thought and culture, especially in a college environment.

Prior to her move into administration, Rajala had a distinguished career as a professor and center director. Her research was focused on the analysis and processing of images and image sequences and on engineering educational assessment.

She is a 1997 inductee into Michigan Tech’s Electrical Engineering Academy and a member of the Presidential Council of Alumnae. In 1988, she became the first women to receive Tech’s Outstanding Young Alumni Award, and was the recipient of the 2008 Distinguished Alumni Award.

A Leader in Teamwork and Project Management

Smith is Cooperative Learning Professor in the School of Engineering Education within the College of Engineering at Purdue University. In addition, he is the Morse-Alumni Distinguished Teaching Professor and Executive Co-Director of the STEM Education Center, Technological Leadership Institute at the University of Minnesota.

Smith ’69, earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Michigan Tech and a PhD from the University of Minnesota.

With more than 30 years experience working with faculty to redesign their courses and programs to enhance student learning, Smith adapted the cooperative learning model to engineering education. In the past 15 years he has focused on high-performance teamwork through his workshops and 2014 book, “Teamwork and Project Management.”

Through those workshops, Smith has helped thousands of faculty build knowledge, skills and confidence for involving their student in more active, interactive and cooperative learning both during class time and outside of class.

Smith's research and development interests include building research and innovation capabilities in engineering education; faculty and graduate student professional development; the role of cooperation in learning and design; problem formulation, modeling, and knowledge engineering and project and knowledge management.

He has written eight books and published many articles on teamwork, cooperative learning and structured controversy, engineering education and knowledge representation and expert systems.

Michigan Technological University is a public research university founded in 1885 in Houghton, Michigan, and is home to more than 7,000 students from 55 countries around the world. Consistently ranked among the best universities in the country for return on investment, Michigan’s flagship technological university offers more than 120 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in science and technology, engineering, computing, forestry, business and economics, health professions, humanities, mathematics, social sciences, and the arts. The rural campus is situated just miles from Lake Superior in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, offering year-round opportunities for outdoor adventure.