Leaders Inspiring Excellence in Technical Education

Each year ABET has the privilege of recognizing organizations and individuals who inspire excellence in technical education through the ABET Awards. The four major awards — The Linton E. Grinter Distinguished Service Award, ABET Fellow Award, ABET Innovation Award and Claire L. Felbinger Award for Diversity and Inclusion — recognize the achievements of some of ABET’s most dedicated Experts, as well as individuals that are taking huge strides in bringing diversity and innovation to technical education. Last month, we conferred these awards at the 2020 ABET Awards Celebration. Here are some of the ways these inspiring leaders are transforming the STEM fields.

Strengthening Cybersecurity Through Gender Equality

This year’s Claire L. Felbinger Award for Diversity and Inclusion recipient has made impressive strides to enhance diversity in cybersecurity. Cybersecurity is a particularly complex field, and the profession depends on different perspectives and unique approaches to solving problems and challenges to protect the safety and security of individuals, organizations and governments.

A 2013 research study conducted by Frost and Sullivan found that women represented just 11 percent of the worldwide cybersecurity workforce. By 2019, their representation had increased to 20 percent of the cybersecurity workforce. This growth is, in large part, due to Dr. Ambareen Siraj’s tireless work to enhance diversity within cybersecurity and her commitment to building a community that supports female students and professionals.

In 2012, Siraj established Women in CyberSecurity (WiCyS) through a National Science Foundation grant. WiCyS is a non-profit organization dedicated to bringing together women in cybersecurity from academia, research and industry to share knowledge, experience, networking and mentoring. WiCyS helps build a cybersecurity workforce with gender equality by facilitating recruitment, retention and advancement for women in the field.

Siraj has worked to ensure inclusion and diversity in the cybersecurity workforce since joining the faculty at Tennessee Tech University as a professor of computer science in 2006. Later, she also became the founding director of Tech’s Cybersecurity, Education, Research and Outreach Center (CEROC). Now Siraj is being recognized for her efforts as the winner of ABET’s 2020 Claire L. Felbinger Award for Diversity and Inclusion.

Expanding Access to IT Education

The ABET Innovation Award honors individuals or teams that are breaking new ground by developing and implementing innovation into their ABET-accredited programs. This year’s winner, IT Students Capacity Building Program by iSITE — Integrated Southern Tagalog Association of IT Education, is an organization providing collaborative industry-aligned seminars, training and conferences to students and faculty in geographically dispersed IT programs in the Philippines.

Each semester, the Student Capacity Building Program organizes seminars, training, research presentations and competitions, bringing together 800–1200 students and faculty from schools throughout the region, enabling a diverse range of programs to share resources and supplement student learning in underserved areas. Formed by deans from different universities in the Calabarzon region of the Philippines, iSITE’s mission is to boost the IT skills of students at over 200 universities that offer IT education programs.

Transforming Education Through Dedication to Service

This year, we also honored four extraordinary ABET Fellows, who were each nominated by their peers for their remarkable contributions to higher education and ABET accreditation: Ronald J. Bennett, Ph.D., Patricia Brackin, Ph.D., Jeffrey Fergus, Ph.D., and Donna S. Reese, Ph.D.

They have all been actively involved in their ABET Member Societies and have tirelessly promoted quality in STEM education worldwide. Each of our 2020 Fellows have also made contributions to enhance diversity, equity and inclusion efforts in technical education. As Bennett mentioned in his acceptance speech for the 2020 ABET Fellow Award, “The diversity of experiences, skills and viewpoints enriches the discussions and leads to more thorough and balanced conclusions. We see this in decisions across the ABET organization from the work on individual programs to continuous improvement in governance processes and documentation.” They are truly role models for our field and join the ranks of many other distinguished ABET Fellows.

As an organization, ABET is positioned to help guide the principles and practices in STEM higher education. Over the years, we’ve created initiatives to help build a more diverse STEM workforce. In light of recent events around the world, we have renewed our commitment and I’m pleased to highlight some of our work toward this goal. These efforts, while significant, won’t end centuries of systemic racism, oppression, and violence within our society and its institutions all by themselves. But we can make a difference in building a more equitable, inclusive community of students, educators and industry professionals in which all members can thrive. To learn more about our work on these important issues, please visit the new Diversity, Equity and Inclusion page of the ABET website.

Executive Director & CEO of ABET, the global accreditor of college and university programs in the STEM disciplines.

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