The biography and position statement for the 2014 IEEE Vice President, Member and Geographic Activities is listed below.
Dr. Ralph Ford is Director of the School of Engineering at Penn State Erie, The Behrend College. He obtained his B.S. degree from Clarkson University, M.S. and Ph.D. from the University of Arizona, and worked at IBM Microelectronics from 1989-1993. He joined Penn State in 1994 and then served as Chair of Electrical and Computer Engineering for eight years. During this period, the department added programs in computer and software engineering. He was a Fulbright Scholar at Brno University of Technology in the Czech
Republic, has served as an ABET accreditation program evaluator, obtained over
$1M in external funding, and is the author of over 40 publications including the book Design for Electrical and Computer Engineers (McGraw-Hill).
He became director of the School of Engineering in 2005 and has led efforts to create new majors, add new research centers, and increase enrollments. He is currently the IEEE 2013 Vice President of Member and Geographic Activities and a member of the IEEE Board of Directors.
IEEE Board of Directors, 2011-13; MGA Board of Directors 2011-13; IEEE-USA Board of Directors, 2011-12; IEEE Board of Directors Strategic Planning Committee, 2012-; MGA Operations Committee, 2011-13, MGA; Operations Committee Chair 2013; MGA Awards and Recognition Committee, 2009-2011, MGA Awards and Recognition Committee, Chair, 2010; IEEE Awards Board, 2010; MGA Member Engagement and Life Cycle Committee, 2009-2010; MGA Nominations and Appointments Committee, Member, 2008; Regional Activities Board (RAB), Nominations and Appointments Committee, Member, 2007.
Region 2 Director, 2011-12; Region 2 Director-Elect and Vice Chair, 2009-2010; Region 2 – Eastern USA, Conference Coordinator, 2003-08, Region2 Committee, 2001.
Erie Section, Chair, 2001; Vice Chair, 1997-2000.
IEEE Region 2 Student Activities Conference, organizing committee, 2011.
Member of the Signal Processing Society and Education Society.
Region 2 Conference Coordinator, 2003-2008; IEEE Region 1-2;
Women in Engineering Conference Organizing Committee, 2011.
Region 1-6 Revitalization Strategy Volunteer Leader
- Oversee ten inter-related projects that involve a number of IEEE organizational units. The objective is to develop new initiatives for engaging membership in the US and reverse membership declines.
Metropolitan Area Workshop (MAW) Volunteer Leader.
- Volunteer leader for creating the Metropolitan Area Workshops as part of the R1-6 strategy.
- Oversaw efforts to deliver six workshops in 2011 and 2012. Achieved an 80% satisfaction response from attendees and recruited new members (more than 15% of attendees) to join IEEE, exceeding established goals.
- SPIE Machine Vision and Applications Conference, 2003–2007. Organizing committee member and part of a successful initiative to increase industrial participation and improve quality of paper submissions.
- ASME Manufacturing Science and Engineering Conference, 2010. Served as the host organization financially responsible for this 300-person conference that was held in Erie, PA, in 2010. Successfully raised $60,000 (USD) in conference sponsorship.
- Society of Plastics Engineers Injection Molding Conference, 2007, 2009, and 2011. Member of organizing committee of three successive offerings of this new conference. As the host institution representative, I assumed budget responsibility and ensured a financially viable conference.
- IEEE Region 2 Student Activities Conference, Erie, PA, 2011. The School of Engineering at Penn State Erie served as host. As a member of the organizing
- committee I oversaw the budget and worked with IEEE Student members to help them in organizing a successful conference with over 300 attendees.
IEEE Erie Section Chair
- Led a number of efforts to engage our membership. Organized and presented in the first Member Professional Activities Conference in the Section; organized a Senior member drive that increased Senior membership and organized the annual new members event, as well as plant tours and visits.
- I am currently 2013 Vice President and Chair of Member & Geographic Activities Board.
- I have served on the IEEE Board of Directors, the IEEE MGA Board, and the IEEE-USA Board.
- I serve on the Board of Directors of the Economic Development Corporation of Erie County, Pennsylvania, USA the leading economic development entity in the region.
- As Director of the School of Engineering, I chair our School's Board of Visitors, an advisory board of 15 corporate presidents, vice presidents, and directors.
Leadership and Management Experience
- I am in my third year of service as a Member of the MGA Board.
- I am a member (2011-) and chair (2013) of the MGA Operational Committee that plans for MGA initiatives and Board meetings.
- As School Director at Penn State, I oversee six departments, nine academic programs, nearly 70 faculty and staff, and 1,300 students. I develop and implement strategic plans, form committees and assign members, chair meetings of the faculty, and directly oversee the School’s Leadership Team (Six Department Chairs and Associate Director for Research).
Financial Management Experience
- Currently oversee MGA financial operations as VP-MGA and work with the MGA Treasurer and MGA FinComm on planning and oversight of MGA finances.
- As Region 2 director, I oversaw and was responsible for the Region’s annual operating budget process with the Region Treasurer and region committee.
- As School Director at Penn State, I oversee an annual operating budget and annual research grant expenditures, two endowments, and student scholarship
I believe that MGA has the responsibility to advocate for all IEEE members to ensure that their needs as technical professionals are met. This applies across the entire member experience, from technical activities to access to technical information to local engagement. If elected, I will focus on (1) developing a world- class member experience, (2) expanding IEEE’s global membership presence, and (3) modernizing the volunteer experience.
One fact is compelling: only 60% of IEEE members are satisfied with their membership. To become a world-class organization, satisfaction needs to substantially increase. Recent member surveys provide insight as to where we can improve. For example, members rate professional networking as being important, but they are not particularly satisfied with it. We are new creating and experimenting with new models of online networking to support professional networking. Likewise, career resources and continuing education opportunities are important to members, but their needs are not well met. I will lead MGA in addressing these gaps. Furthermore, the number of benefits members are presented with is staggering. I will focus the MGA Board on a data-driven approach to identifying and improving benefits where we can improve satisfaction, while phasing out those that are ineffective.
The primary area for membership growth will continue to be outside of the United States. MGA has an important role in determining where IEEE should focus its efforts on new markets and how to engage members in them, while working with other major organizational units to do so successfully. For example, we have seen great membership growth in India, but it is also clear that retention of members is very low. The challenge is to determine why and how to address it. Each opportunity has unique characteristics to be understood and engagement models to be developed. I intend to lead the MGA on evolving the globalization strategy and partnering with the other OUs to implement it.
While I believe in a data-driven approach, it cannot provide the full picture as to how we best engage members and volunteers. I will be an advocate for creating and prototyping new initiatives in MGA and in IEEE activities. For example, I believe that the current volunteer model is reaching a limit; the time requirements exceed that which many talented volunteers are able to commit to. In organizing the Metro Area Workshops, I found that there is great appeal for sections to host them but not enough volunteer time to execute them. We are currently prototyping strategic projects that allow volunteers to be effective in focusing on member engagement and impact. Furthermore, I believe that we should continue to experiment with new models of Society membership and conferences that demonstrate better value to our membership.
I believe that serving as Vice President of MGA is one of the most exciting and challenging leadership roles in IEEE because of the important impact that MGA has on our 400,000+ members. I look forward to the possibility of continuing to serve in this role.
top of page