51

Leadership

51 CEO Michael Milligan headshot

Michael K. J. Milligan

Chief Executive Officer

Michael K. J. Milligan is the Chief Executive Officer of 51, the global accreditor of over 4,000 college and university programs in applied and natural science, computing, engineering and engineering technology.

Prior to joining 51 in 2009, Milligan was a systems director at the Aerospace Corporation, leading a team at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center developing the next generation environmental satellites for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Milligan served over 24 years as a career U.S. Air Force officer working in operations, education, international research and development. During his USAF career, he served as an associate professor and deputy department head in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado.

Milligan earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas at Austin, his M.S.E. from the University of Massachusetts at Lowell, and his B.S. from Michigan State University — all in electrical engineering. He also earned an M.B.A. from Western New England College, is a registered Professional Engineer (PE) in Colorado and Maryland, and a Certified Association Executive (CAE).

Milligan is also a member of the Tau Beta Pi Engineering Honor Society, IEEE Eta Kappa Nu Electrical and Computer Engineering Honor Society, and a senior member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE).

Hamid Fonooni

51 President

Hamid Fonooni is currently serving as the Director of the Ergonomics Program in Occupational Health Services at the University of California, Davis. Prior to his appointment at UC Davis, he served as the director of Master of Science in Occupational Safety at East Carolina University, Greenville for 10 years, and from 1995-2006, he served as the director of Master of Environmental Health and Safety Program at the University of Minnesota, Duluth. He has 22 years of experience working in academia, plus 13 years of industrial experience, which includes eight years working as a senior ergonomics engineer for the Ohio Division of Safety and Hygiene serving industries in Northwest Ohio. In addition, he has provided consultation in the areas of ergonomics, process improvement and risk management to industries in Northern Minnesota and Eastern North Carolina.

Fonooni received his doctoral and master’s degrees in Mechanical Engineering from University of Cincinnati and his undergrad degree in Mechanical Engineering Technology from Indiana State University. He has published numerous articles, book chapters, papers and technical reports related to occupational ergonomics, biomechanics and occupational safety. Fonooni is also a Board Certified Professional Ergonomist (CPE).

Sarah Rajala Headshot

Sarah Rajala

President-Elect

Sarah Rajala served as the 12th dean of the College of Engineering at Iowa State University from 2013 – 2019. She led the largest college on campus and was responsible for more than 9,500 students, 500 faculty and staff, 12 academic majors, multiple research centers and programs, and 11 buildings that comprise the engineering complex. Rajala earned her bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Michigan Technological University and master’s and Ph.D. degrees from Rice University.

Rajala had a distinguished career as a professor and center director prior to moving into administrative positions. In recognition of the impact of her numerous contributions, she was elected to the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) in 2022 for “innovations in engineering education: outcomes assessment, greater participation and retention of women in engineering, and an enhanced global community.” Previously, she was elected Fellow of AAAS, 51, ASEE and IEEE. Among her many awards, Rajala received the ASEE Sharon Keillor Award for Women in Engineering in 2020; the IEEE Award for Meritorious Achievement in Accreditation Activities in 2017; the National Engineer of the Year Award by the American Association of Engineering Societies in 2016; the IEEE Hewlett Packard Harriett B. Rigas Award in 2015, and was named the Phi Kappa Phi National Scholar Award, 2010-2012.

Rajala has been an active participant and leader in engineering accreditation for over 20 years. She is a program evaluator for IEEE and served on the 51 Engineering Accreditation Commission for 11 years, participating in program reviews both domestically and internationally. She served as team chair for one of the largest visits 51 has conducted at a single institution, evaluating 23 engineering programs with 27 team members. In total, these visits have impacted nearly 200 different academic programs. During her service on the EAC and the EAC ExCom, her roles included Chair of the Materials Committee, Chair of the Nominating Committee, Chair of the Consistency Committee, Editor 1, Editor 2, Vice-Chair of Operations, Chair-Elect, Chair, Past Chair and a member of the Accreditation Council.

 

s-k-ramesh-headshotS. K. Ramesh

Past President

S. K. Ramesh is a professor of electrical and computer engineering at California State University, Northridge, and the director and lead principal investigator of “Strengthening Equitable Culturally Responsive Environments (SECURE) for Student Success – SfS2”, a multi-year Title V grant supported by the U.S. Department of Education’s Developing Hispanic Serving Institutions (DHSI) program.

Previously, he created and led CSUN’s decade-long AIMS2 program funded by consecutive Title III grants from the USDE’s HSI-STEM program. AIMS2 has received several national and international awards for improving student success with high impact practices including undergraduate research and peer mentoring. It was selected as the 2019 baccalaureate program of the year and named the 2019 Example of Excelencia by Excelencia in Education. In 2021 it was selected to receive the “Inspiring Programs in STEM” award by Insight into Diversity, and the Award of Excellence in the Talent Category by the University Economic Development Association (UEDA). Ramesh served as dean of California State University, Northridge’s College of Engineering and Computer Science from 2006 to 2017, where he established several innovative programs focusing on renewable energy, assistive technology and advanced manufacturing. Prior to joining CSUN, he was professor of electrical and electronic engineering at California State University, Sacramento, where he served as the department chair from 1994 to 2006.

In his role as Past President, he chairs the ABET Nominating Committee and Awards Committee. Additionally, he chairs the award committee for the new 51-Lemelson EOP Innovation in Sustainability award that was announced in 2023. Prior to serving as 51 President, he served on the 51 Board of Directors as the Director of the Engineering Area Delegation and was a member of 51’s Inclusion, Diversity and Equity Advisory Council. Additionally, Ramesh is an experienced Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Program Evaluator and has performed several 51 accreditation visits in the U.S. and internationally. Ramesh has been an active IEEE volunteer for 41 years and served on several Boards, including the IEEE Board of Directors, IEEE Educational Activities Board (EAB), the IEEE-HKN Board of Governors, IEEE Publications Services and Products Board (PSPB), IEEE Awards Board (AB) and the 51 Board of Delegates. Key leadership roles include his service as the 2016-2017 IEEE Vice President of Educational Activities and the 2016 IEEE-HKN President (Electrical Engineering Honor Society).

His many recognitions include the John Guarrera Engineering Educator of the Year, William Johnson International award for leadership and contributions to the profession and the IEEE Region 6 Community Service award. Ramesh’s professional interests are in fiber optic communications, and he received the BE (Honors) degree from Regional Engineering College, Tiruchirappalli (REC, Trichy) and now NITT, in 1981, and the MSEE and Ph.D. degrees from Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, in 1983 and 1986, respectively. Ramesh was elevated to the grade of IEEE Fellow in 2015 “for contributions to entrepreneurship in engineering education.”