The School of Mechanical, Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering at the annnual Faculty Off-Site meeting in Corvallis, Oregon.

New school head acts on global impact, student success, strategic excellence

As the new head of the School of Mechanical, Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering, 
Harriet Nembhard, Eric R. Smith Professor of Engineering, is off to a fast start in her first 100 days at Oregon State University.

“My initial assessment with everything I’ve observed and absorbed is that this school is ready to take off,” said Nembhard. “We have the pieces and the programs, the outstanding faculty, the impressive growth, and now it is time to take this momentum and truly elevate our achievements 
to the national and international stage.” Making that journey requires an expanded mindset, added Nembhard, who attributes the school’s strong position to nationally recognized programs, like Robotics, as well as the contributions of 
her predecessors.

“MIME faculty are already excellent collaborators. That’s one of our greatest strengths,” Nembhard said. “So my questions are: How do we impact one billion people? How will our innovations reach around the globe? How will our networks and partnerships grow?”

Nembhard, who comes from Penn State University, has had a noteworthy career as an academic leader and researcher. Her expertise includes health care systems engineering operations research, process improvement, and quality control. 

She cofounded and directed the Center for Integrated Healthcare Delivery Systems, which combined expertise from engineering, medicine, nursing, health policy, and information sciences and technology to develop holistic solutions to the challenges of health care delivery. Nembhard also served as the interim department head of Penn State’s Harold and Inge Marcus Department of Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering, where she developed strategies for academic development and faculty recruiting, launched a new master’s degree program, and enrolled its first class.

At the school, Nembhard has already taken definitive action, funding the first round of the MIME Strategic Excellence Initiatives. Faculty will submit proposals that address focused areas of the school’s strategic plan each term. Nembhard has allotted $150,000 for the 2016-17 academic year — $50,000 for each term. By 2020, she aims to have $500,000 in annual funding for these faculty proposals.

For fall 2016, Nembhard and the associate school heads selected five $10,000 MIME Innovation Grants funding projects for innovation, instructional grants and research equipment, distinguished lecturer visits, and MIME faculty and instructor travel grants. Each term, the leadership team will review the next round of proposals that follow these initiatives.

Together with MIME faculty, Nembhard is focusing on the importance of curriculum development. She’s working to expand opportunities for undergraduate research, broaden multidisciplinary research with students and faculty from other engineering schools, and enhance student success through greater participation in student 
clubs and groups.

She also recently organized a MIME student club competition night, where eight club officers made pitches for their groups. The winner earned $1,000 for their club. Called a “PechaKucha Night,” the presentation format is limited to roughly seven minutes, giving students a small window to make their case and tout their clubs achievements.

“We know that students who are involved in these groups are successful at Oregon State. They work in teams and win competitions, and we see that they are quite successful when they leave to pursue careers,” said Nembhard. “We have a great opportunity to enhance their leadership and student learning experience. I think we’ll see more collaboration and participation across the groups as we continue to support them and their endeavors.”