Dean Ayanna Howard to pave collaborative, inclusive path to excellence

Posted: March 1, 2021
Ayanna Howard

Today, accomplished roboticist, entrepreneur and educator Ayanna Howard, PhD, begins her tenure as dean of the College of Engineering.

Dean Howard was previously chair of the Georgia Institute of Technology’s School of Interactive Computing, as well as founder and director of the Human-Automation Systems Lab (HumAnS).

“Dr. Howard is an innovator whose skills and passion are a perfect fit with Ohio State’s focus on convergent research and discovery,” said President Kristina M. Johnson. “To attract a leader of her caliber shows both the strength of our engineering program and the acceleration of the university’s overall research mission.”

She is the first woman to lead the College of Engineering. According to the Society of Women Engineers, only 17% of engineering deans or directors across the country are female. She also is the college’s second Black dean. George Mason University President Gregory Washington served as interim dean from 2008 to 2011. Throughout her career, Howard has been active in helping to diversify the engineering profession for women, underrepresented minorities, and individuals with disabilities.

“Community and inclusive excellence around students, research, and innovation are my passions,” said Howard. “I’m of the belief that it takes a village to drive excellence, and my goal is to fully support us in that effort.”

Her career spans higher education, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and the private sector. Howard is the founder and president of the board of directors of Zyrobotics, a Georgia Tech spin-off company that develops mobile therapy and educational products for children with special needs. Zyrobotics products are based on Dr. Howard’s research.

Among many accolades, Forbes named Dr. Howard to its America's Top 50 Women In Tech list. She also is featured in Diverse Issues in Higher Education’s annual special report recognizing women’s contributions to academia.

Executive Vice President and Provost Bruce A. McPheron noted that Dean Howard joins Ohio State amid substantial university investments in the advanced materials corridor, interdisciplinary research and the West Campus Innovation District.

Innovation District at Kenny-Lane intersection rendering
Rendering of Innovation District on west campus

A recently announced $100 million State of Ohio investment in the Innovation District will increase convergent research initiatives, substantially grow the number of STEM graduates, and design more opportunities for engineering students to engage with industry partners.

“As a comprehensive research university, Ohio State provides opportunities for innovations across fields and sectors, with benefits to our students and the broader economy,” said McPheron. “Dr. Howard has the perfect background to advance innovation in the College of Engineering, throughout the university and with industry partners.”

Howard also is a tenured professor in the college’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering with a joint appointment in Computer Science and Engineering.

“I’m thrilled to join Ohio State at a time in which there is so much potential to strengthen and build new partnerships in order to expand access and enhance opportunities for the next generation of students, alumni, and for economic development throughout Ohio,” said Howard.