Fatma Mili, dean of the College of Computing and Informatics (CCI) — the fastest-growing college in the UNC System and most comprehensive technology program in North Carolina — is emphatic about the reason she came to UNC Charlotte.
“This is a university completely embedded in the community and takes its responsibility toward the community very seriously. Every time someone says ‘Charlotte does not have a research university,’ we must remind them otherwise.”
Through programs and partnerships, Mili plans to build on UNC Charlotte’s collaboration with the city to realize its urban mission completely and effectively as an estimated 3,500 new CCI graduates leave the University over the next five years to begin careers, contributing to the growth of Charlotte’s tech sector.
“We must embrace our role as change agents, especially at a time when our challenges require novel solutions that demand a long view.”
Mili believes those in her field have an opportunity to make higher education more relevant, reformist and responsive to the great needs facing society. She points out that research underway at CCI in cyber security, data analysis and robotics can be applied to addressing the needs of cities like Charlotte to make them more livable, commutable and resilient.
“We can’t do it alone with computing, but no discipline can do it without computing.”
Mili arrived at UNC Charlotte last August after a combined 30 years at Oakland University in Michigan and Purdue University. If you talk to her for any length of time, you realize quickly that she believes it is the responsibility of those in the computing and technology fields to consider the consequences of their work and related findings.
“Everything we do has ethical implications and we must own them.”
Mili’s own research covers broadening participation in STEM, making higher education sync with the needs and expectations of society, and evidence-based findings about human motivation and learning. She holds the view that colleges and universities are duty bound to lead the fight for gender, ethnic and socioeconomic equity — and is committed to finding ways to make computing and technology appealing to and inclusive of women and minorities.
This aligns with the goal of CCI’s Women in Computing Initiative to increase the number of women undergraduate majors to 450 students and grow proportionally the number of women graduates. CCI is a step closer to achieving that goal with support from the newly created NorthState CCI Mentorship Program and others in Charlotte’s business community who understand the challenges of diversity.
“The College of Computing and Informatics relies on strong partners who share a common vision for the role of technology in society, understand the importance and challenges of broadening participation by women and minorities, and have a strong commitment to change the status quo.”
Mirroring a national trend, CCI enrollment has doubled over the past ten years with projections for further growth.
“UNC Charlotte has a mission that centers on access and excellence. We also have youth, speed, agility and innovation on our side. We may not yet be at the front of the race but we’re running the fastest.”
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