Khalil Najafi Honored with Robert M. Janowiak Outstanding Leadership and Service Award
By: Catharine June, University of Michigan
Khalil Najafi received the Robert M. Janowiak Outstanding Leadership and Service Award, the highest award bestowed by the ECE Department Heads Association.
“Khalil was one of the finest academic leaders we’ve worked with,” said John Janowiak, who not only established this award with his father, Robert, but helped formalize the ECEDHA organization itself in the 1980s. “He has a way of leadership that’s powerful. He leads by example, and he’s very insightful.”
Najafi was Chair of Michigan ECE between 2008-2018. He immediately became active in ECEDHA, and joined the board in 2014. His term as President began in 2016.
“I wanted to get involved right away and make connections with other institutions,” said Najafi, who is the Schlumberger Professor of Engineering. “Coming from a large research institution, I especially wanted to find ways to connect with some of the smaller institutions in the organization, and understand their needs.”
According to Janowiak, Najafi helped institute significant and lasting changes in the organization. For example, in its early years, ECEDHA was primarily peer to peer, but that changed under Najafi’s leadership.
“We now have a very close link with industry, and industry needs are very much tied into what we’re doing in terms of education and providing insights into their requirements for next generation engineers,” said Janowiak.
Najafi also helped reinvent the ECEDHA’s academic membership.
“Under his leadership,” said Janowiak,” “we significantly strengthened the organization’s member services and programs.” Part of that involved reaching out to communications and lab professionals in ECE departments; special programming is now available to both groups during the annual conference.
“I appreciate Michigan’s legacy of giving back to the profession,” said Janowiak, who also expressed his delight that Michigan’s leadership role in ECEDHA is assured with the election of Mingyan Liu, the current Evelyn and Peter Fuss Chair of ECE, to the board in 2021.
Najafi was to receive this award in person at the 2020 annual conference, but it was canceled at the last minute due to the COVID-19 crisis. He will be honored live at the next in-person conference, along with other pandemic award recipients.