Dr. Sarah Rajala, Dean of the Iowa State University College of Engineering, has earned the National Engineering Award from the American Association of Engineering Societies (AAES) – representing 17 multidisciplinary engineering societies from industry, government and academia. Rajala received the award on April 18 at a ceremony in Washington D.C. Rajala earned her bachelor’s degree from Michigan Technological University in 1974 and master’s and Ph.D. degrees from Rice University.
The AAES National Engineering Award recognizes Rajala’s outstanding service in three key areas: 1) inspirational leadership at the institutional, national and international levels; 2) innovations in engineering education and assessment; and 3) her tireless efforts to promote diversity in the engineering field.
“It is indeed appropriate that Sarah Rajala receive the AAES National Engineering Award,” said Joseph J. Rencis, president of the American Society for Engineering Education, one of the AAES member societies. “She is a trailblazer and embodies the criteria of inspirational leadership and devotion to engineering education, advancement of the engineering profession and promotion of public policies.” Rencis also praised Rajala’s diversity efforts, adding “Sarah has recognized the engineering profession cannot achieve full success without full participation of the rich diversity of talent in our global population.”
From Michigan Tech, Rajala received the Distinguished Alumni Award in 2008; was inducted into the Electrical and Computer Engineering Academy in 1997; became a charter member of the Presidential Council of Alumnae in 1997; and earned the Outstanding Young Alumni Award in 1986.
Rajala joined Iowa State in 2013, after having served as the first female dean of the Bagley College of Engineering at Mississippi State University. Before she became dean, Rajala was the first female tenure-track professor in the engineering department at North Carolina State University, where she organized networking activities for the college of engineering women faculty and helped create a maternity leave policy for tenure-track faculty members where none had existed.
In the classroom and through professional organizations, Rajala has worked to improve engineering education for students. She has received numerous teaching awards, provided key leadership related to reform engineering education, and was elected president of the American Society for Engineering Education [ASEE] in 2008-09.
The focus of Rajala’s research is the analysis and processing of images and image sequences and engineering educational assessment. She has directed numerous master’s theses and doctoral dissertations, authored and co-authored nearly 200 publications, and secured a patent on image sequence compression.