Dr. Sara Hooshangi has proven herself a rising star and valuable leader since joining the College in 2010 as the inaugural director of the Integrated Information, Science and Technology (IIST) bachelor’s degree completion program. Many milestones later the fledgling program has grown and morphed into a unique, well-established program, producing graduates who are prepared for a variety of careers in the rapidly changing technology world.
“All of us at CPS extend our heartfelt thanks to Sara for her extraordinary decade of service to the College. She grew a successful interdisciplinary program while showing a deep dedication to teaching excellence and student support,” said Christopher J. Deering, interim dean for the College of Professional Studies. “She will be nearly impossible to replace and we all wish her the very best of luck as she embarks on this next stage in her career.”
Under her leadership the program expanded from Arlington, Virginia to a second location at GW’s Virginia Science & Technology Campus in Ashburn, Virginia. Dr. Hooshangi developed the interdisciplinary program with an eye to being responsive to industry. She modified the curriculum, with an emphasis on the STEM fields, to keep pace with fields like data analytics, health IT and data visualizations. Her goal was to prepare and expose students to a variety of careers and courses in the rapidly changing IT environment.
“I am most proud of my students being able to find amazing jobs! They are working across many different technical fields in the DMV region and they are able to find employment by or before graduation. Some have entered new careers, others have been promoted, and/or are pursuing graduate education. It is great when alumni come back and tell me that their education has had a positive impact on their lives and careers; that is just an affirmation that we are doing something right,” said Dr. Sara Hooshangi, associate professor and program director.
In keeping with her entrepreneurial spirit, she has continued to tweak the IIST program’s curriculum and format, recently renaming it simply “Information Technology,” which is a more easily recognized and understood title. The new name is in effect starting with students admitted for fall 2020.
Since coming to GW, Dr. Hooshangi has been deeply committed to student success. In addition to her innovative curriculum and flexible schedule, she has passionately sought out ways to improve opportunities for her non-traditional students and increase diversity.
Most significantly, she opened access for students by combining her research interests with partial tuition awards by seeking out and receiving a $623,000 NSF funded grant benefitting low-income students. As the principal investigator on the grant, and through other means, she was able to attract a more diverse student body, currently including a mix of ages and backgrounds: working professionals, younger students entering from community colleges, international students and mothers reentering the workforce, amongst others. She has encouraged women, minorities and first generation college students to try the program and feel empowered to excel in STEM.
She also provided them with unique service learning opportunities integrated with the program’s capstone class by working closely with the Honey W. Nashman Center for Civic Engagement and Public Service. A number of her students have exhibited their projects and won awards at GW’s Research Day.
She said, when she thinks back on her time at GW, she is really happy to see how the student community has developed. She sees her students helping each other succeed in the program, even using informal virtual communication tools like WhatsApp and Slack applications to network with each other and meet students from other classes and locations.
"Dr. Hooshangi and the IIST program have been vital in launching my dream career in information technology. Without a doubt, my professional growth is due to Dr. Hooshangi’s unwavering dedication to preparing her students for successful technology careers," said Elise Schaengold, IIST Class of 2016.
Dr. Hooshangi mentioned the program is doing well with many alumni working at well-known private sector companies like Amazon, DELL, Deloitte, IBM, Microsoft, Northrup Grumman, as well as federal agencies. While it is hard to leave GW, in January 2020 she will be spearheading the launch of a new master of engineering in computer science at Virginia Tech’s (VT) northern Virginia campus and the future home of VT’s Innovation Campus.
“The CPS community has been like an extension of my family. It has been a great place to work at and I will miss everyone. I will definitely be staying in touch with many colleagues and former students,” said Dr. Hooshangi.
While it is hard to say goodbye, we celebrate her contributions to the University and wish her all the best in her future endeavors. The College is actively seeking her replacement, per the posted announcement. She looks forward to staying in touch with the GW community through LinkedIn.