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WEPAN Treasurer Jacqueline El-Sayed is an educator and a builder

September 2, 2021

Dr. Jacqueline El-Sayed is the Chief Academic Officer and Managing Director for the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) and treasurer for WEPAN.

She recently received an $18.4 million grant from the National Science Foundation to support the ASEE’s eFellows engineering postdoctoral fellowship program, which was created in response to the economic downturn caused by the pandemic. “We know there’s fewer jobs in academia, and in research and development, so we want to help graduating Ph.Ds in engineering bridge this challenging economic time,” she says. “The goal is to retain them in their technical field, so we don’t lose this generation of engineers and researchers.”

The eFellows program places students who have completed their PhDs in engineering fields in university postdoctoral fellowships, where they will participate in hands-on academic research with a faculty advisor as well as professional development and mentoring activities. “The program provides an important career step. As a fellow, you are an employee, but it’s known that you’re developing your skills, so you have the opportunity to really ask questions and not feel embarrassed or ashamed of not knowing,” says El-Sayed. “The mentorship aspect allows you to explore what things have worked well for you as well as what challenges you’ve faced.”

She is a fervent believer in the power of mentorship. As an American Council on Education (ACE) Fellow, she was mentored by Maria Klawe, the first female president of Harvey Mudd College, during a year she describes as transformative. “I’ve grown to understand through my career that it’s really important for women to mentor other women, and mentorship is crucial, no matter the stage of your career. Being able to reflect on experience and discuss that experience with someone else helps you to start to move forward and get insights you wouldn’t get from just your own thoughts.”

El-Sayed joined ASEE in December 2019, and in her almost two years there, has led the senior management team in developing a strategic objectives plan based on board goals and helped build new revenue streams, such as fee-based professional development courses and funded grants at multiple levels. She’s proud of having built such a collaborative team and one that is adaptable and ready to take on big challenges, especially given the global pandemic.

“I think I started at just the right time. I have over twenty years’ experience as a mechanical engineering professor and as an academic administrator, so I understood what our members were going through as they pivoted to online teaching.” She and her team were able to put multiple supports in place for ASEE’s learning communities, such as curated resources, and worked on creating new professional development opportunities, such as special journal editions so that members could publish the innovations and applications they discovered and used during the pandemic.

El-Sayed’s journey in engineering began in high school. A trained classical pianist who loved math and science, she took an interest test to help her decide on her career path, and the results were a tie between music and applied technology. She didn’t want piano to be her career, so she started exploring engineering. She began her career in industry, as an automotive engineer for GM.

After discovering a passion for teaching, she went back and got a Ph.D., becoming a full professor in mechanical engineering at a time when only 1% of full professors in the field were women. She has leadership experience with the entire pipeline of engineering education, spending nearly eighteen years at Kettering University as a Mechanical Engineering professor and serving in various administrative roles, and most recently served as Chief Academic Officer & Vice President for Academic Affairs & Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Marygrove College. She also served on the Michigan Truck Safety Commission.

“I consider myself an educator and a builder. I like to build systems and organizations that help create future engineers. I used to help build trucks and now I help build people,” she laughs.

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