Engineering a Vision

For nearly three decades, Nada Marie Anid, Ph.D., has cultivated a reputation for understanding the role of engineering and science in a global society. Her distinguished academic career includes an appointment at John Cabot University, an American liberal arts university in Rome, as well as serving as department chair and graduate program director at Manhattan College in New York. Now she joins NYIT as the dean of the School of Engineering and Computing Sciences.

Born in Lebanon, Anid earned her engineering degree from the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, Sweden, in 1980, after which she lectured at the American University of Beirut. In 1988, she moved to Ann Arbor, Mich., and earned her Ph.D. at the University of Michigan. NYIT Magazine posed some questions to the dean:

What attracted you to NYIT?

NYIT has a great reputation for promoting forward-thinking ideas and innovative technologies, and I strongly agree with its career- and applications-oriented mission. I also noticed the changes at the Manhattan campus in the past few years and after meeting the academic leadership and faculty of NYIT, I felt that it is a place of new possibilities for me.

As dean, what is your vision for the school, and how do you plan to reach out to NYIT alumni?

I have read NYIT’s 2030 strategic plan, which states that “NYIT’s School of Engineering and Computing Sciences will change the face of engineering education.” My own vision is to fulfill the faculty and students’ aspirations and to be the face and advocate of the school. My goal is to create a sense of community and of renewed pride through a multi-pronged approach that will include alumni and community outreach, fundraising, research, marketing, global programs, and interdisciplinary activities.

NYIT students have distinguished themselves in sustainable energy initiatives, such as the Solar Decathlon. Are you planning to initiate more green energy programs?

Definitely. We have to think strategically and adapt to the times. Globally, sustainability is a responsibility shared by all nations. Engineering and computer science students need to be part of this collective responsibility. Locally, we must educate a new generation of engineers ready to meet our national needs. My first initiative will be to propose a center for engineering education—highlighting innovative technologies in the areas of energy and sustainability—in partnership with the private sector and government entities. I also plan to create professional development certificate programs in sustainability.

As a woman in a stereotypically male-dominated field, how do you plan to serve as a role model to young women interested in science and engineering programs?

There is nothing more rewarding than when a student or a colleague—male or female—tells me I am a role model and inspiration. Conveying my passion about what I do is the key, whether it is figuring out which microalgae species yields the largest amount of oil, what method produces the highest ethanol yield from glucose fermentation, finding out the best way to capture carbon dioxide from a flue gas stack, or releasing hydrogen gas from a hydride mineral.

Do you have any specific ideas on how to bring more female students into this field?

Having two daughters and having been a professor to waves of female students has taught me a lot about how girls think and learn. I have also read a number of scholarly studies and reports on girls and how they relate to science, math, engineering, and technology. Some girls are intimidated by these fields; they like people over computer screens and prefer professions that have an impact on people’s everyday lives. In addition, they are more responsive to what’s alive than what’s inert. Girls are responsive to collaborative and experiential teaching methods. When engineering is presented to girls as a field for “cool” people … where support and mentoring is provided, where most decisions are made by a group of people … when it is presented as a lucrative profession and its societal impacts are highlighted, girls become interested and may consider it as a career.

How to actually bring more females into engineering starts with educating parents, teachers, high school guidance counselors, and potential female students.Funding to attract more girls into engineering abounds through the National Girls Collaborative Project and numerous other groups. I plan on researching programs applicable to NYIT so that such an initiative can be funded through external grants.

Why did you become a teacher?

Being a teacher is the finest profession there is because of the immeasurable satisfaction that students provide. Teaching also offers endless opportunities for longlasting friendships, creativity, and inspiration.

What motivates you? How do you motivate other people?

Challenge motivates me. The possibility of imparting change motivates me. The ability of leading by example motivates me. I motivate other people by setting a goal, and by engaging them and empowering them to reach it.

What is the biggest myth about engineers?

The biggest myth about engineering is that it’s too difficult. Also, sometimes engineers are perceived as loners.

What word best describes you?

Passionate.

What are your hobbies? Favorite movie? Favorite book? Favorite food?

My hobbies are going to museums and the theater, going to classical music concerts and recitals, and traveling in the United States and Europe. My favorite movie is The English Patient, my favorite book is Les Contemplations by Victor Hugo, and my favorite food is French cuisine.

Next: A Dean's To-Do List

Spring 2009 Table of Contents