Photo by Leise Jones Photography
Dr. Gilda Barabino has been named the next president of Olin College of Engineering, effective July 1, 2020. Dr. Barabino’s unanimous selection by the Olin College Board of Trustees comes after a comprehensive search that drew interest from around the world.
Currently, Dr. Barabino is the dean of The Grove School of Engineering and the Daniel and Frances Berg Professor at The City College of New York. Dr. Barabino’s career is distinguished by her focus on interdisciplinary engineering scholarship, her record of research and academic accomplishments, and her leadership in higher education.
“Dr. Barabino is an extraordinary academic leader with a background of scholarly research and demonstrated success as a strategic thinker in engineering education,” said Ken Stokes, chair of the Olin College Board of Trustees. “Dr. Barabino’s skills as an educator promoting and effecting institutional change will serve her and the institution well. We are exceptionally pleased to welcome Dr. Barabino to Olin. The community looks forward to working with her to develop new learning approaches and to inspire lasting change in the design and delivery of engineering education beyond our campus.”
As the college enters its third decade, Olin is poised to use the same spirit of innovation from which it was launched in order to identify and solve future challenges both in engineering education and in the global community. “Dr. Barabino’s experience as a pioneering academic leader who is passionate about Olin’s mission makes her uniquely suited to lead the college at this time,” said Beverly Wyse, chair of the Presidential Search Committee.
“My connection to Olin was immediate and it was deep,” said President-elect Barabino. “At a time when the global challenges we face are increasing in complexity and enormity, we must rethink how we educate engineers to meet new challenges, and I am looking forward to working with this deeply collaborative community as Olin’s next president to help shape the future and the face of engineering education.”
Dr. Barabino’s decades of achievement in engineering education led to her most recent role at City College, where she has been dean of the engineering school since 2013. At City College, Dr. Barabino doubled the retention rate in engineering; developed new masters’ programs in data science and engineering, cybersecurity, and translational medicine; enhanced the research footprint of the college; led university-wide efforts to enhance the representation and success of women and minority faculty; and provided greater STEM opportunities for underserved student communities. Dr. Barabino also established thriving partnerships with institutions across New York City, the state and the nation.
In 2019, Dr. Barabino was elected to the National Academy of Engineering. In 2018, she received the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and the National Science Foundation. She is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering and the Biomedical Engineering Society. She previously served as president of the Biomedical Engineering Society and the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering, where in 2017 she received its highest award, the Pierre Galletti Award. Currently, she chairs the American Society for Engineering Education Engineering Deans Council, the first woman to do so.
In addition to her role as an educator, Dr. Barabino has sought ways to influence the policies that shape the engineering profession. She is a renowned thought leader in the areas of STEMM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine) education and research, faculty development, workforce development, public policy, and diversity and inclusion. She is the founding and executive director of the National Institute for Faculty Equity, a research and development initiative that seeks to institutionalize the professional development and career success of women and minorities in STEM. She has been tapped by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine to serve on a number of committees that examine and actively seek change around these subjects. Dr. Barabino is also a member of the Committee on Equal Opportunities in Science and Engineering, a congressionally mandated advisory committee to the National Science Foundation, the NSF Engineering Advisory Committee and the AAAS Committee on Science, Engineering and Public Policy.
Dr. Barabino is a well-known researcher in the fields of cellular and tissue engineering and sickle cell disease. Her seminal research in sickle cell biomechanics and adhesion provided the basis for current technologies and novel anti-adhesion therapies. “Throughout my career, I have made choices where the research I chose to work on and the places where I chose to
teach were such that there would be some societal impact,” said Dr. Barabino. Her research in biomechanics spans four decades of investigation into how cells and tissues respond to their mechanical environment and has important implications for the treatment of disease and regenerative medicine. She served on the National Institutes of Health’s congressionally appointed Sickle Cell Advisory Committee and is a participant in the Global Sickle Cell Disease Network.
The appointment of Dr. Barabino as Olin’s next president is the latest step in a trailblazing career of firsts that began in 1981, when she was the first African American woman admitted to the graduate program in chemical engineering at Rice University.
In 1986, she was the fifth African American female in the nation to obtain a doctorate in chemical engineering. She joined Northeastern University in 1989 and rose to the rank of full professor of chemical engineering and then vice provost for undergraduate education. She joined Georgia Institute of Technology and Emory University as professor and associate chair for graduate studies in the Department of Biomedical Engineering. She served as the inaugural vice provost for academic diversity and is credited with establishing a legacy to strengthen diversity and inclusion at Georgia Tech.
Dr. Barabino’s appointment is the culmination of a search process that began in 2019 following the announcement from Rick Miller, Olin’s first employee and longtime president, that he would step down from his office after 21 years of leading the college.
Dr. Barabino joins the Olin community at an exciting time in the college’s history. In just 20 years, Olin has joined the ranks of leading engineering schools, known around the world for its innovative curriculum. Olin College is currently No. 3 on the U.S. News and World Report rankings for undergraduate engineering education, is listed consistently in Princeton Review’s Best Colleges Guide and was recently named as a top leader in engineering education globally.
Dr. Barabino was quickly identified as a leading candidate by the Olin College Presidential Search Committee, which consisted of 12 members of the Olin community, including students, alumni, staff, faculty and board members. The dedicated group engaged in the search process over the course of 10 months in partnership with executive search firm WittKieffer.
“It was important to our committee that we conducted this process in a way that reflected the true spirit of collaboration and experimentation at Olin,” said Lynn Andrea Stein, vice chair of the Presidential Search Committee. “I am very pleased that over the past eight months we have stayed true to those values. This was a uniquely Olin search from beginning to end, and I could not be more delighted with the outcome.”