Dean Leah Jamieson: A mentor without borders

This is the story of Dean Leah Jamieson, which is intrinsically linked to the inception of a bilateral partnership that has transformed the strategic vision of a land grant university (Purdue) while impacting a whole nation (Colombia).

Professor Leah Jamieson is an educator and out-of-the-box thinker. She is a mathematician by training from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and finished her M.S and Ph.D degrees in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science from Princeton University in 1974 and 1977 respectively. She joined the School of Electrical Engineering at Purdue University in 1976. Her research interests include speech analysis and recognition, parallel process design, and its application to digital speech, image and signal processing. With over 175 publications, Dr. Jamieson's research is known worldwide.

She became Dean of the College of Engineering on August 2nd, 2006.

Under Dr. Jamieson's leadership, faculty and staff met in 2009 to redesign the strategic plan of the College of Engineering based on the question of what it means to be a land grant university in a global 21st century. "Leah did not want to do a strategic plan the normal way," explains professor Arvind Raman, Associate Dean for Global Engineering Programs and Professor in Mechanical Engineering, "she broke the mold and brought in a very different way of thinking, using the Blue Ocean Strategic framework." This methodology encourages out-of-the box and strategic thinking, and the plan boundaries are set based on value innovation to unlock new demands. As a result, more than 30 roadmaps where proposed.

The roadmap for global engagement identified the need to create global strategic partnerships based on unique value innovations with governments, universities and the private sector that would integrate all aspects of the University's mission - research, education, engagement and alumni. "We started thinking about Ph.Ds as a way of developing countries, especially if we combined that with the establishment of strategic partnerships with countries that are developing their innovation economies, such as Colombia" explains Dr. Jamieson.

Juan Ernesto de Bedout, chair of College of Engineering Advisory Council and proud Purdue Colombian alumnus, called the work team's attention to the video Colombia2025; a strategy developed by former Colombian Vice President Francisco Santos, in which the country is envisioned as the wealthiest nation in Latin America and a regional leader in research, education, and technology in the year 2025. Juan Ernesto suggested the College of Engineering focus its strategic plan on this emerging economy. "This idea resonated in the whole team," explains Dr. Jamieson. The resulting strategic plan focused its efforts on creating stable partnerships with Colombia, not just with single institutions within the country but with its educational system and government, while integrating the participation of Purdue's most valuable assets: alumni, faculty and students.

A Purdue commission composed of Leah Jamieson, Juan Ernesto de Bedout, Arvind Raman, Arden Bement (Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Nuclear Engineering and Former Director of the Global Policy Research Institute and Purdue's Chief Global Affairs Officer), Carolyn Percifield (Director of Strategic Planning and Assessment of the College of Engineering), Jean Paul Allain (Adjunct Associate Professor of the Purdue College of Engineering and Associate Professor in the Department of Nuclear, Plasma, and Radiological Engineering at the University of Illinois), Gerhard Klimeck (Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering), and Indrajeet Chaubey (Former Head of the Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Science, Professor of Agricultural and Biological Engineering and currently Purdue Associate Dean of Agriculture and Director of International Programs in Agriculture) traveled to Colombia in October 2010. The main purpose of the trip was to sign the Memorandums of Understanding (MOU) between the Colombian Ministry of Education, Colciencias (the Colombian department for science, technology and innovation), and Colfuturo, to support doctoral studies of young Colombians at Purdue. These agreements gave birth to the Colombia-Purdue Initiative (CPI), formerly known as Colombia-Purdue Institute for Advanced Scientific Research (CPIASR), which aims to connect Colombia with Purdue for mutual sustainable development and benefit. "This was really a landmark because it was the first time that both institutions had negotiated such an agreement," explains Leah, "Colciencias with an international university, and Purdue with a country."

Dr. Jamieson and Dr. Bement from Purdue University signed the MOU with Maria Fernanda Campo, former Colombian Minister of Education, on October 26, 2010 in Bogotá. This agreement allowed Purdue University to interact with different branches of the Colombian government through the Ministry of Education.

The Purdue-Colciencias MOU was signed October 27, 2010 in Bogotá. (Left to right: Juan Jose Trujillo, former Vice Director of Colciencias; Jaime Restrepo Cuartas, former Director of Colciencias, Leah Jamieson and Arden Bement.

The Purdue-Colfuturo MOU was signed October 27, 2010 in Bogotá. (Left to right: Leah Jamieson, Arden Bement, and Jerónimo Castro Jaramillo, Director of Colfuturo.

Leah truly believes in the power of education to change the world. This ideology has been reflected and recognized throughout her career. In 2013, she was awarded the Simón Bolivar Medal by the National Ministry of Education of Colombia for her efforts towards the development of Science, Technology and Education through CPI's establishment. "It is incredibly special to have a medal that recognizes education and is named after an individual who is known for changing the world," says Dr. Jamieson. She was also given the Keys to the City of Medellin during the XXXII International Congress of Engineering and Architecture.

Only seven years after its inception, CPI became a successful initiative with over 100 partners in Colombia and the US. Moreover, the Colombian student body population at Purdue ranks #7 out of 127 countries, and #1 among Latin American countries. CPI's progress has been undeniably orchestrated by Dr. Leah Jamieson, and has become tangible thanks to the efforts of key Purdue and Colombian advocates, such as: Juan Ernesto de Bedout, Arvind Raman, Carolyn Percifield, Juan Diego Velásquez, Jeffrey Stuart, Jean Paul Allain, Jay Akridge, Maria Fernanda Campo, Jaime Restrepo Cuartas, and many others.

"Through Leah's leadership, Colleges across campus have become engaged with Colombia. As needs and interests of our Colombian partners became clearer, she reached out and brought others into the fold, making this a truly University-wide initiative. Leah's own work in Colombia, and her work to build a unique University strategy for engaging Colombia, is certainly an exciting and important part of her Purdue legacy", says Jay Akridge, Glenn W. Sample Dean of Agriculture.

Dr. Jamieson has stepped down from her position as Dean after eleven fruitful years. She will be transitioning into a full-time faculty position in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering. She is certain that CPI will continue to grow and that the current political scenario in Colombia, and the continued self-definition of Purdue as a global university, will open opportunities for bilateral research collaborations in many areas, especially in Agriculture, Tourism and Engineering. Leah has enjoyed this journey from the very beginning. "One of the things that have been incredibly special is getting to meet amazing people in Colombia, who now I can call friends and colleagues," explains Dr. Jamieson with great enthusiasm and emotion.

The Colombia-Purdue community is ever grateful to Dr. Jamieson for her endless efforts and commitment towards the establishment of CPI. Without her vision, none of our successful partnerships and collaborations would have been possible. We wish her the very best in her future plans.

¡Muchas gracias por todo, Leah!

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