Hiring Dr. Monica Bugallo to be the new Dean of Diversity and Outreach in the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences was a “no brainer,” Fotis Sotiropolous, dean of the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences, said. Bugallo was appointed this past Aug. and officially became the dean at the beginning of the semester.
Bugallo, an accomplished professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, will now work towards increasing the number of minority and female students in the fields of engineering.
Along with her position as dean, Bugallo will continue to serve as the faculty director of the Women in Science and Engineering program (WISE), a position she has held for the past three years. The WISE program is a growing sector of the student population, currently with 344 women in the fields of computer science, engineering, mathematics and biology, among others.
Bugallo joined the Department of Engineering and Computer Science at Stony Brook University in 2002. Hired as an electrical engineering lecturer, Bugallo has risen through the ranks, serving as an associate professor, professor and now the Dean of Diversity and Outreach.
Bugallo’s research in signal processing, a subfield in electrical engineering that works with varying types of signals, has crossed multiple disciplines — climate change, economics and cancer research. She has authored and co-authored more than 150 journal papers and secured grants from the National Science Foundation.
“[Bugallo] is passionate about the percentage of women in engineering,” Sotiropolous, who hired her, said.
Since taking over as faculty director of WISE, Bugallo has transformed the program, spearheading a new WISE curriculum that allows women in the program to develop the “soft skills” necessary for success in their careers. Courses in the WISE program encompass everything from gender in the STEM field to getting academic credit for leadership, research, internships and mentoring.
WISE students are mentored by upperclassmen during their freshman year and are later offered graduate student mentors tailored to the WISE students’ career paths and ambitions.
“Mentors are very important at every stage of your career,” Bugallo said, adding that she still is mentored to this day.
Doreen Aveni, WISE honors program administrator, credited Monica for her work with WISE.
“She has elevated the curriculum,” she said. Prior to the curriculum, there was no formal recognition for women in the program. Now, all WISE women, upon completion of the program will receive recognition on their transcript, Aveni explained.
WISE seeks to promote opportunities for STEM among all women, including women of color.
“The workforce needs to diversify,” Aveni said. “More diversity leads to a greater diversity and insight.”
While diversifying the student population is important, the need for diversity extends beyond the Stony Brook campus. Sotiropoulos recalled a recent experience where he visited Silicon Valley.
“The number one problem was diversity,” he said.
For companies like Google, increasing the number of women at their companies would lead to more innovation and a better bottom line, Sotiropolous explained.
“Diversity is important,” he said. “The more we have a diverse pool of human brains, the better we can solve problems.”
In his 2019 State of the College Address, Sotiropolous acknowledged the progress the College of Engineering has made. The percentage of female students in the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences has surpassed the national percentage of female engineering students, an achievement Sotiropolous has credited to Bugallo.
Students in the WISE program have found the program to be instrumental in their undergraduate career.
“Almost all of the classes I’ve taken as a WISE student have highlighted various issues women face not only in the job force, but in life,” Marcia-Ruth Ndege, a junior biology major in the WISE program, said.
Ndege is part of the student leadership of the WISE program, serving as the organization’s treasurer.
“The mentors, teachers and leaders of WISE have made it their mission to prepare the students in such a way that they thrive in STEM,” Ndege said.
As dean, Bugallo plans to continue this mission.
“The future in STEM will provide more opportunities to the next generation and promote multidisciplinary collaboration,” she said.