Dr. Hamid Fonooni began his term as 2023-2024 ABET president following the officer installation ceremony on Nov. 4.
Fonooni’s journey with ABET started in 2005 as a program evaluator for American Society of Safety Professionals (ASSP). He joined the Applied and Natural Science Accreditation Commission (ANSAC) in 2009, where Fonooni went on to serve as chair in 2017 and area director in 2018 until he was voted president-elect in 2022. Fonooni was also recognized as an ABET Fellow in 2021.
Outside of ABET, Fonooni is a Certified Professional Ergonomist (CPE). He is the director of the ergonomics program at University of California, Davis, where he has been the sole ergonomist on campus since 2015.
ABET is proud to have Fonooni lead its mission in ensuring confidence in graduates of ABET-accredited STEM programs throughout the world. To gain insight into Fonooni, his background and his vision for the term of his presidency, we conducted a Q&A session:
1. What are your primary goals as ABET president?
My primary focus as ABET president would be to ensure ABET is moving toward attaining its strategic goals. As the chair of the Board of Directors, I determine whether the Boards’ directives are executed. My efforts will also be to enhance ABET’s engagement with industry as well as supporting harmonious implementation of Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Accessibility (IDEA) principles across ABET. Senior leadership in ABET consists of past president, current president, president-elect and ABET’s CEO and CFO, who all work closely together and make decisions collectively. I am delighted to work with such exceptional individuals who have ABET’s best interests in mind.
Most, if not all, professional societies are still recovering from the financial impact that COVID imposed on them. ABET has been working diligently to help its member societies manage their financial burden by reducing member society dues. ABET is also looking at innovative ways to expand ABET membership, which will facilitate the development of program criteria and provide an ongoing stream of program evaluators, which is another initiative I will be focusing on.
2. As an ABET president from the Applied and Natural Science Accreditation Commission, how will your unique perspective shape your leadership and, by extension, ABET?
I believe ABET’s ultimate contribution to society is to help to make the world a better place to live. It is evident that competent and confident Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) graduates are the future of science and technology, and beyond. In this respect, all four of ABET’s commissions share the same perspectives as what we call ‘One ABET.’ Each commission has a focus in their area of specialty, which contributes to one ultimate goal of improving the quality of STEM education.
My activities in the Applied and Natural Science Accreditation Commission (ANSAC), with its wide range of diverse disciplines, provided me with the opportunity to better understand well-balanced growth. In addition, the need for accreditation of domestic and international applied and natural science programs and the need for program evaluators for these programs required ABET to work closely with the societies representing these disciplines. My ABET training as a program evaluator (PEV) and then as commissioner and commission chair allowed me to understand and honor different voices that all together strive for a common goal. ABET’s impact extends beyond program accreditation as ABET is the gold standard of quality for STEM disciplines nationally and globally.
ANSAC is also a player in the accreditation of STEM-related programs in ABET’s program accreditation space. ABET’s largest and oldest commission is the Engineering Accreditation Commission (EAC), which has had significant contributions to the healthy growth of ABET. ANSAC is the smallest among the four commissions, yet the one with the most potential for growth nationally and internationally. There has been a trend of steady growth in ANSAC, slowly but surely as initially intended. By reflecting diverse perspectives from ANSAC, we hope to be able to contribute to even a stronger ‘One ABET.’
3. What are you most excited about over the next year at ABET?
I am excited for the opportunity to take part in implementing the ABET strategic goals that the Board of Directors formulated in January 2023. These goals include broadening ABET’s engagement globally, growing and enhancing ABET membership, and expanding the professional programs that ABET offers. I look forward to continuing to build strong relationships with our constituency and supporting the efforts of the IDEA Council. It is an honor and a great privilege to serve as ABET president.
4. What interests you the most in your field of ergonomics?
I would say working directly with people and work processes excite me the most. My educational background is in Mechanical Engineering with a focus on structural dynamics. During my graduate work, I had an opportunity to learn about ergonomics through my role as a graduate research assistant at the University of Cincinnati’s Ergonomics Research Laboratory. My research experience at the university and my later practice in industry in ergonomics and biomechanics provided me with the opportunity to see how using a systems approach to design the environment, equipment and tools can impact the efficiency, productivity, safety, health and well-being of the workers involved.
Ergonomics is all about the universal or inclusive design of tools, environments and work processes for all people with different sizes, endurance levels and physical and physiological attributes. Occupational ergonomics is the discipline with direct input in diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility in work processes and work environments. Ergonomists never have a boring moment at work.
5. What is one thing you want people to know about you?
What I would like people to know about me is that I function with the highest ethical and moral principles. I do my best to be an effective listener to diverse points of view so that I can learn before I react to what I hear. Through my upbringing, education and life experience, I have learned that our core values have a profound impact on our life outcomes, people around us and the environment. Our genuine intentions followed by our actions reflect who we are. My intentions followed by my actions are rooted in strong ethics and morals. I feel at home in ABET, and I consider all volunteers and ABET staff as my work family.