Livestream recap: 2020 State of the Department Address

Posted: March 30, 2020

The Ohio State University’s Electrical and Computer Engineering program held its first virtual State of the Department Address for alumni, amidst the great international work-from-home experiment of COVID-19.

ECE Chair Hesham El Gamal spoke on coronavirus concerns and department changes via Carmen Zoom Thursday at 6:30 p.m. to remote faces of alumni across the United States. He also touched upon good news regarding department rankings and a strategy for the future. 

In this time of dealing with the unknown, El Gamal said, universities that figure out innovative pathways forward will come out ahead. He said ECE faculty, lecturers and staff were forced to entirely redefine what they do overnight – and they rose to the challenge.

What they are finding, he said, is an optimistic increase in student engagement and participation throughout the first week. 

“We understand that this is not just a challenge, but it’s also an opportunity. This is a giant experiment we’re going through right now; the whole nation is delivering education and research in whole different ways,” El Gamal said. “We don’t expect to go back to the same old way.”

(Watch the full livestream)

He specifically sees Ohio State ECE leading the nation through a focus on wellness for students, faculty and staff, in order to tap into their creativity, teaching, strategy and research.

“Creativity does not come from a place of stress,” he said. “It comes from a place of joy.”

El Gamal said the university made thoughtful decisions for students and faculty regarding the coronavirus, such as extending tenure and adding a pass/no pass grading option. 

“Our department has invested in our culture and our people,” he said. “Those are our greatest assets. This is a time when our culture is shining. If we continue on the path we are on right now, if we empower our best minds to create, the next wave of higher education will be different.”

Within the past year, El Gamal said, Ohio State’s ECE graduate program jumped from 30th to 22nd (an 8 point increase) in the 2021 national collegiate rankings held annually by U.S. News and World Report. The goal is to bring the department back into the top 10 over the next several years. 

Ohio State’s Office of Academic Affairs also fully reviewed the ECE program in 2019, an activity which occurs once every 10 years. Noting the quality of staff, students and faculty, he said, the report was “glowing” and the program was pegged “ready for the next leap forward.”

In the future model of higher education, El Gamal said, departments with the best culture like Ohio State will emerge as greater examples of excellence, rather than those with the greatest endowments or oldest names. 

To learn more about faculty, research and student awards click HERE.

In terms of new programs, the chair highlighted the launch of the Institute for Cybersecurity and Digital Trust. Ohio State's Senior Vice President in the Office of Research, Morley Stone, also initiated a new task force with El Gamal to increase graduation rates through different education models with industry partners

In an effort to modernize the ECE graduate education, El Gamal said, the pre-major program is providing a new holistic admission process to focus more on new student potential and to enhance diversity and inclusion. There is also a new Internet-of-Things track in the works.

Ohio State EE/ECE Alumni Association President Zia Mohammed provided a overview of the program, highlighting ways people may get involved in the department's path forward.

Wrapping up the 2020 State of the Department Address, was an extended Q&A session, touching on program changes, building renovation plans and program strategy.

Asstant Dean for the Office of Research, Bobby Srivastava, said the college is proud of the leadership witnessed by the ECE faculty, staff, and students.

"Hesham continues a long trend of phenomenal department chairs and we’re excited to see all that the department continues to contribute to the engineering community in the coming years," he wrote.

Current students said they appreciated the livestream address.

"I'm a freshman in the pre-ECE track and attending this session really helped me understand the department as a whole," Gary Sung wrote.

"I am a third-year undergrad and really appreciated the information," Sarah McKinsey wrote.