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September 2022

Spotlight Article

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Making History: A Year of Firsts
By: Deidra R. Hodges, Florida International University


About Florida International University (FIU) and FIU ECE:

The FIU Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) Department enrolled 1,240 students in Fall 2021: 1,021 undergraduates and 219 graduate students (composed of 109 MS and 110 PhD students), making the ECE Department the largest in the College of Engineering and Computing at FIU. During the 2021-22 academic year, the program had 30 tenure-track faculty members, 13 non-tenure-track faculty members, and 11 adjunct faculty members. Through 10 colleges and schools, FIU offers more than 190 bachelor, master, and doctoral degree programs and conducts basic and applied research. FIU is ranked R1 (Doctoral Universities – Very High Research Activity), the highest level awarded in The Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education®. With a student body of nearly 54,000 students (Fall 2021 enrollment), nearly 1,800 full-time instructional faculty, and more than 18,000 degrees awarded during the 2020 – 2021 academic year, FIU is the largest university in South Florida.

About Hodges — the first African American Female Chair of the FIU ECE Department:

During the first semester of my first year at FIU, and my first time living in Miami, an opportunity arose to self-nominate for the position of Chair of the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department at FIU. Taking a step of faith, I self-nominated for the position and began preparing for the process. From my prior experience building and growing a technology company, I knew the key elements of my vision for the department would require engaging and strategically deploying the expertise and strengths of the department. Taking a people-centered approach meant finding ways to be inclusive of everyone across the department, including our 6 active past ECE Chairs still working and serving in the department. After interviewing and presenting my vision to the department, I received the majority vote from the ECE faculty. My first six months as ECE Chair was full of “firsts”: leading the department through my first ABET accreditation of 2 programs, leading my first Tenure and Promotion (T&P) cycle for 5 faculty members, performing my first annual faculty evaluations and assignments, preparing for my first faculty meeting, organizing my first Annual Faculty Retreat, and launching my first student-focused initiative to provide first-author, high-impact publication incentives for our graduate students.

Navigating the challenges along the way to completing these major milestones was possible with a great administrative team, the dedicated support of excellent faculty and staff and strong collaboration within departmental committees. The talented people within the ECE department have positioned us to accelerate growth both operationally and in research. For example, one of our students, a former software engineer, has been instrumental in assisting our business intelligence and data science efforts across the department to enable more efficient data-driven decision making. This student has also led all our social media campaigns and has significantly grown the social presence for the department through platforms such as LinkedIn and Twitter. In research, we’ve initiated activities to grow the department in the areas of Quantum Engineering, Microelectronics and Nuclear Engineering. Through engagement and workforce development plans with the Dept. of Energy National Labs and MIT Lincoln Labs, Idaho National Lab, Oakridge National Lab, Brookhaven National Lab, National Renewable Energy Lab and Kansas City National Security Center, we’re strategically partnering for continued growth.

I am very grateful for the opportunity to serve as ECE Chair at FIU, working with a great team, and making history with many firsts!