North Carolina A&T Creates Three Centers of Excellence; Interim Directors Named

EAST GREENSBORO, N.C. (Feb. 12, 2019) – As an outgrowth of its recently updated strategic plan and commitment to outstanding quality in research, teaching, and community engagement. North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University has created three new Centers of Excellence in cybersecurity, advanced manufacturing, and entrepreneurship and innovation.

Interim directors have been named and are set to begin developing strategic plans and building the initial infrastructure for each center.

The centers will provide exemplary leadership in research, academic programming and community outreach, consistent with the university’s land-grant mission. The interim directors will establish interdisciplinary faculty advisory committees and external advisory committees, initiate discussions with business and industry leaders and plans for sustaining the centers for the long term. They will also assist with hiring of permanent directors and initiate strategic planning.

The new interim directors are as follows:

tonya_smith-jackson-200.jpgTonya Smith-Jackson, Ph.D., is professor and chair of the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering at N.C. A&T and has recently completed an assignment as program director at the National Science Foundation in the Computer and Information Science and Engineering Directorate (CISE). She will serve as interim director of the Center of Excellence in Cybersecurity.

Smith-Jackson earned her doctorate in psychology/ergonomics and master’s in interdisciplinary psychology/ergonomics and industrial engineering from North Carolina State University. She holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology from UNC-Chapel Hill. She is also a graduate of the inaugural class of the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics. 

She is director of the Human Factors Analytics Lab, former director of the Center for Advanced Studies in Identity Sciences, and co-director of the laboratory for Cyber-Human Analytics Research for the Internet of Things (CHARIoT). She is a fellow of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society and a member of several other professional societies.

Her current research focuses on cyber-human systems, fairness and equity in intelligent systems, cognitive ergonomics, and mixed data modeling to design systems that advance inclusion and equity in sociotechnical systems and cyber-ecosystems. She has published more than 160 peer-reviewed publications and has attracted $16.4 million in external research funding over her career.

Smith-Jackson has been employed in the tech industry, the U.S. government and in academia in North Carolina, New York, Virginia and Germany.

ajit-kelkar-200.jpgAjit D. Kelkar, Ph.D., is a professor and chair of the Department of Nanoengineering in the Joint School of Nanoscience and Nanoengineering shared between. For the past 25 years, he has been working in the area of low-cost fabrication, processing and performance evaluation and modeling of polymeric and ceramic matrix composites. He will serve as interim director of the Center of Excellence in Advanced Manufacturing.

Kelkar has worked with several federal laboratories in the areas of fatigue, impact and finite element modeling of woven composites, including the U.S. Army, U.S. Air Force, NASA-Langley Research Center, National Science Foundation, the Office of Naval Research, Federal Aviation Administration and Oak Ridge National Laboratory. He is currently involved in the development of nano-engineered multifunctional materials and electro-spun fiber materials for aerospace and automotive applications. He has published over 250 papers and edited two books in the area of nanotechnology. He has been awarded three patents and has filed for 12 invention disclosures.

Kelkar is the recipient of numerous awards including the Senior Researcher Award and the Intellectual Property Award at A&T, and the BEYA STEM Innovation Award. He is a fellow of Maharashtra Academy of Science in India. He serves on editorial board of three journals in nanotechnology disciplines and is a member of several professional societies.

He holds a Ph.D. in engineering mechanics from Old Dominion University, a M.S. in engineering from South Dakota State University and a B.S. in engineering from Pune University in India.

thaddeus-mcewen-200.jpgThaddeus McEwen, Ph.D., is a professor in the Department of Management in the College of Business and Economics, where he has also served as the coordinator of the entrepreneurship program for many years. He will serve as interim director of the Center of Excellence in Entrepreneurship and Innovation.

Under his leadership, the entrepreneurship program has grown from one course, educating 12 students per year, to the current program that includes an entrepreneurship concentration for management majors, as well as a certificate and a minor in entrepreneurship, available to all majors on campus. He also developed various initiatives, including the Aggie Venture Accelerator, the Faculty Fellows in Entrepreneurship program, and the Aggie Student Incubator.

He is a former vice president of the Women and Minority Entrepreneurship Division of the United States Association of Small Business and Entrepreneurship. His research publications include papers on environmental and STEM entrepreneurship and entrepreneurship teaching and learning.

McEwen is a member of the Launch Greensboro Advisory Board and served as chair of the Organizing Committee for the 2017 Triad Startup Weekend. Other outreach activities include collaboration with East Greensboro Now, Greensboro SCORE, the North Carolina Small Business Technology and Development Center and other Piedmont Triad groups. 

He received his master’s and doctorate from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale and his bachelor’s degree from the University of Technology in Jamaica.