Sarah A. Rajala ’74, a Michigan Tech electrical engineering alumna, has been elected to the National Academy of Engineering. It is one of the highest professional distinctions accorded to an engineer. Dr. Rajala is honored for “innovations in engineering education: outcomes assessment, greater participation and retention of women in engineering, and an enhanced global community.” New members of the NAE will be formally inducted in October at the NAE’s annual meeting.
Rajala is an internationally-known leader in the field of engineering education and a ground breaker for women in engineering. She serves as a role model for young women and is passionate about diversity of thought and culture, especially in a college environment.
Originally from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan (Skandia), Rajala earned her bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering at Michigan Tech. She went on to earn masters and doctoral degrees at Rice University, and then embarked on primarily an academic career, working as a faculty member at North Carolina State University, Purdue University, and ultimately Iowa State University, where she served the engineering profession in a leadership role as the Dean of the College of Engineering until her recent retirement.
Rajala’s extensive professional leadership in the field of engineering education has included serving as president of the American Society for Engineering Education and chair of the Global Engineering Deans Council.
Across her career, in addition to working in a scholarly and teaching capacity as a professor of electrical engineering, Dr. Rajala also provided volunteer service in many professional and leadership roles. Her service roles to the societies for which she contributed culminated in important national leadership positions. These include serving as chair of the Engineering Accreditation Commission of ABET, the engineering accreditation body for engineering programs, and also as president of the American Society of Engineering Education (ASEE).
At Michigan Tech, Rajala is a member of the Electrical Engineering Academy, inaugural recipient of the Academy for Engineering Education Leadership, and a member of the President’s Council of Alumnae, among many other honors.
“Dr. Rajala has been an influential person to many people across her career, including me. I am incredibly proud to hear of Dr. Rajala’s election into the National Academy of Engineering,” said Dean Janet Callahan.
“I first met Sarah many years ago at the annual meeting of the American Society for Engineering Education. Later, she reached out to me when she heard I had joined Michigan Tech as the College of Engineering’s next dean. She told me, ‘You will love Michigan Tech—it is a supportive community that truly fosters the principle of tenacity.’”
Now an Iowa State professor emeritus of electrical and computer engineering, Rajala continues to be an internationally known leader in engineering. She is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, ABET, the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) and the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE). Rajala has also received numerous other top awards including national engineer of the year award by the American Association of Engineering Societies and the national Harriett B. Rigas Award from the IEEE honoring outstanding female faculty.