Social Impact

Leah H. Jamieson

2007 Winner of the Social Impact ABIE Award

Leah H. Jamieson is the 2007 Women of Vision Award Winner for Social Impact. Leah is co-founder and past director of the Engineering Projects in Community Service – EPICS – program and the current Ransburg Distinguished Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering and John A. Edwardson Dean of Engineering at Purdue University. Founded in 1995, EPICS is an engineering design program that operates in a service-learning context. Under the EPICS program, teams of undergraduates earn academic credit for multi-year, multidisciplinary projects that solve engineering- and technology-based problems for community service and education organizations.

Dean Leah Jamieson is a woman of vision whose pioneering work through EPICS has brought the energy and resources of our nation’ s universities to bear on the social issues of today through service-learning. Her efforts to have integrated engineering and computer science education students with modern social issues and their solutions. She is widely recognized as the leader in engineering and computer science service-learning. Her work has had a broad impact on undergraduates and local communities across the country and abroad.

Leah understands how technology has created tremendous opportunities to address many social, educational and environmental issues of today. She has also seen how many people and communities lack the financial resources or expertise to take advantage of these advances. She has led the effort to address this disparity using the expertise from our university’ s and colleges through service learning. Service learning offers the opportunity to address these needs while enhancing the education of our undergraduate and graduate students.

Leah’s tireless efforts cultivated and nurtured EPICS to its current size of 29 teams and about 400 undergraduates each year from 20 majors at Purdue. She directed the national growth and dissemination of the EPICS model for service-learning and today 18 universities have implemented EPICS with many other universities and colleges adopting similar programs inspired by her work. Jeanne Ferrante, Professor, Associate Dean and Director of one of newer EPICS programs at UCSD spoke for many when she said “they would have never started their program if it weren’t for Leah’s leadership and success blazing the trail for them to follow.”

Leah has been a director and also a teacher/advisor. The teams that she has personally supervised include very diverse areas of speech recognition software for children with speech-delays, signal processing and therapeutic devices for children with disabilities, environmental engineering, light manufacturing processes for adults with disabilities as well as education and outreach initiatives. She supervised one of the earliest Anita Borg Institute for Women in Technology virtual design centers that was integrated into EPICS under her leadership. This ABIWT team continues developing technology for young girls and has expanded into helping the Computer Science Department design classrooms and computer labs which are diversity friendly. Her teams have had a direct and profound impact on the local community and serve as national models.

Leah’s work has been recognized by national organizations outside of engineering and computer science as a model for partnering with local communities to meet the relevant social needs of those communities. She created a curricular structure that allowed the partnerships to span the academic semester. The not-for-profit community can use the expertise of our universities but they need long-term support and partnerships for stability and her model of long-term partnering accomplishes just this. These long-term partnerships have produced powerful alliances in the local community and resulted in significant accomplishments in the local community. For example, local agencies that work with the homeless have database technology to coordinate their services, local schools have access to improved learning environments, and neighborhood organizations can work with students to improve the environment. Over 200 projects have been delivered in the Purdue community alone.

The impact of Leah’s work is immense with over 2000 students completing EPICS at Purdue over the last ten years and over 1500 students now annually participating in EPICS at one of the EPICS universities.

Leah received B.S. in mathematics from MIT and Ph.D. from Princeton. Leah has been an active volunteer in the 365,000- member Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and is the current IEEE President. Leah’s vision is for a society where all have the benefits of modern world can be enjoyed by all citizens. She has led movement to engage current students and alumni in that vision to provide benefits to those who are underserved.