Freshmen aren’t the only ones getting accustomed to life on campus at NC State this fall. Dr. Julie Swann is beginning her first semester as the new head of the Edward P. Fitts Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering and is eager to explore her new role. Along with being department head, Dr. Swann also received the title A. Doug Allison Distinguished Professor.
MAKING HER WAY TO NC STATE
Before joining NC State, Dr. Swann served as the Harold R. and Mary Anna Nash Professor in the Stewart School of Industrial and Systems Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology. She also co-founded and co-directed the Center for Health & Humanitarian Systems (CHHS), one of the first interdisciplinary research centers on Georgia Tech’s campus. Dr. Swann has published more than 50 articles in peer-reviewed journals or as chapters in books and has acquired more than $3 million in research funding from a variety of sources.
Prior to becoming an educator, Dr. Swann held industry appointments with IBM, General Motors and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). She particularly enjoyed her work with the CDC because she felt she had the opportunity to have an impact on others. She served as an advisor during the response to the H1N1 influenza pandemic and, more recently, contributed to collaborations on pediatric asthma.
In addition to her duties as an educator, Dr. Swann has worked with a variety of organizations, including government agencies, non-profits, and companies, to design and improve systems that are more efficient, effective and equitable. She is currently working with humanitarian supply chains that help meet human needs such as food supply on an ongoing basis, as well as during disasters and conflicts.
WHY ISE AT NC STATE
Throughout her career, Dr. Swann has used her industrial engineering background in a variety of domains. Because the approaches can be applied so broadly, she feels that many new problems and areas of application will be available to tackle in the future. As an educator, she finds it rewarding to help students take what they have learned and apply it to a complex problem, especially in their senior design projects. “I enjoy working with the student teams to scope the problem, apply what they’ve learned, learn new things as necessary and deliver a solution for a real-world problem,” she explained.
When asked what drew her to NC State, Dr. Swann remarked, “The Fitts ISE department has so many things going for it!” She was attracted to the wide breadth of research in areas from manufacturing to healthcare, and human-systems to systems analysis and optimization research. She identifies with the mission of land-grant schools like NC State to focus on the “creation and application of knowledge, applicable teaching, and engagement with public and private partners” and appreciates that NC State values collaboration among disciplines. She is excited to dive into her new role and begin tackling this new and exciting challenge.
Dr. Swann’s family is eager to explore NC State’s campus and their new city. They have already visited the Farmer’s Market, viewed the solar eclipse in the Brickyard, eaten at several local restaurants, picnicked at Falls Lake and visited several parks. She was attracted to Raleigh by the easy accessibility to both the beach and the mountains and the balance between urban living and southern hospitality in the city. Dr. Swann spoke for her whole family in saying, “The Triangle is simply a great place to live, and we look forward to getting to know the people as well.”
UP NEXT FOR NC STATE ISE
Asked what she is most looking forward to in her new role, Dr. Swann said she enjoys taking on new challenges. “Several of my mentors and colleagues have observed that the department head has a unique opportunity to work collaboratively with people within the department and help build upon the collaborations with other departments and colleges.”
One of her immediate goals is to begin the hiring process for new faculty doing analytics or data-oriented work. An accreditation review of the undergraduate program was recently completed and a review of the graduate program will be underway soon. The faculty will examine the program in its entirety, from initial application and recruitment to job placement and career success.
Dr. Swann is looking forward to increasing engagement with alumni and external partners, an important role of state organizations. “Telling the story of the department’s diverse and talented graduates is essential to fostering awareness and expanding the program,” she said.
DIVERSITY IN ISE
As the number of women in engineering continues to grow, ISE’s incoming undergraduate class is 41 percent female, and Dr. Swann partly attributes this to the balance of existing methods with exciting application areas. The four female full-time faculty members in the department also help draw female students to the program. ”I would love to see more women continuing their studies in engineering or related fields by pursuing graduate degrees,” Dr. Swann said.
In an effort to support women in STEM, Dr. Swann plans to focus on sharing the successes of NC State and ISE female students and alumni. ISE is consistently attracting a diverse group of students, including a number of talented student-athletes. There has also been a recent increase in ISE undergraduates participating in research or studying abroad. “The ISE department works hard to recruit women through a variety of activities, such as summer camps, engineering fairs, and other events,” she noted. “By sharing their unique stories and experiences, female students and graduates of the department can help spread the word and attract the next generation of talent our program.”
Dr. Swann added, “I am excited about exploring this new role, including working with students and faculty to build tomorrow’s future, while engaging with alumni and learning from their experience.”