Two SSIE PhD candidates explore their futures at faculty diversity program
The future of engineering and computer science depends on diversifying the faculty to bring new perspectives and offer inspiration for upcoming generations.
Schools across the U.S., including Binghamton University’s Thomas J. Watson College of Engineering and Applied Science, are actively looking to recruit more women as well as more Black, indigenous and other people of color for teaching roles.
Recently, two PhD candidates from Watson College’s Department of Systems Science and Industrial Engineering — Raghad Al-Hemeimat and Tamika Gordon, MS ‘13 — traveled to Virginia Tech to take part in its Future Faculty Diversity Program.
The three-day conference gives participants the opportunity for professional development and networking as well as to have discussions with department heads, deans and early career faculty members about life in academia. As part of the experience, participants are hosted by a Virginia Tech department to tour research facilities, meet with current faculty to gain a greater awareness of research and teaching opportunities, discuss their career prospects and academic work, and present a research talk.
This fall, the program received 200 applications from around the country and invited 44 participants that represent a diverse group in terms of gender, race and geographic region.
“You submit a full application as if you were applying to a faculty position,” Gordon said. “You prepare a research statement, a diversity statement and a teaching statement, and then you attach your CV as well. Then you hope that you get a response that you get to join them.”
Although they are wrapping up their PhD dissertations next semester, Al-Hemeimat and Gordon already have years of teaching experience behind them. Gordon, who hails from Brooklyn, is an assistant professor for SUNY Broome’s Engineering Science and Physics Department, while Al-Hemeimat served for five years as a faculty member in the Industrial Engineering Department at the University of Jordan.
“Academia is a place where I see myself,” Al-Hemeimat said. “I’m open to all opportunities, but it’s definitely one of my biggest goals right now, either in the United States or in Jordan.”
They agree that the best part of teaching is the effect you can have on young minds who are trying to learn new concepts.
“That connection you have with students — being able to help them and watch them grow as individuals, both professionally and personally — I think that’s big for me,” Gordon said.
Both of their PhD dissertation topics deal with healthcare. Al-Hemeimat is researching care continuity within primary care practices and optimizing physicians’ panels — specifically, how many patients can one doctor handle and what is a good mix of patients to ensure the best possible care. Gordon uses system dynamics to evaluate the utilization of mental healthcare services among Medicaid patients.
Whether the Future Faculty Diversity Program leads to positions at Virginia Tech or they end up elsewhere with the knowledge they gained at Binghamton University, Al-Hemeimat and Gordon are ready to lead research and guide students for years to come.
“Just being women in engineering, we’re definitely role models,” Gordon said. “I think it’s just a matter of making sure that we put our best foot forward so that we can help those who are coming after us.”
Al-Hemeimat added: “I believe we have a lot to do, a lot to change the world and a lot of value to add.”