The new leader of the Glenn Department of Civil Engineering is a first-generation college graduate who has become an accomplished researcher and one of Clemson University’s most passionate advocates for individuals experiencing marginalization in multiple forms.
Jennifer Ogle has been the department’s acting chair since February, and her promotion removes “acting” from her title. She will be leading a department with 498 students, 27 faculty members, and 12 staff members making it one of South Carolina’s most important sources of civil engineering talent.
Ogle, who was the first woman to achieve tenure in the department and is now a professor, has used her position to help people who need it most, while creating pathways for those who want to follow in her footsteps. She said her lived experiences give her a unique perspective and desire to help others succeed.
Her leadership has helped provide clean water to Haiti’s Central Plateau, make campus more accessible to people with physical impairments, and provide opportunities for underrepresented students to pursue advanced degrees.
Ogle has also been key in rolling out an innovative curriculum that gives civil engineering students a chance to begin hands-on projects as sophomores instead of having to wait until senior year. The approach is aimed at helping students retain what they learn and is funded with $2 million from the National Science Foundation.
Ogle has been involved with the President’s Leadership Institute at Clemson since 2017, first as a fellow and for the past three years as a member of its advisory board. She credited the experience with motivating her to pursue her new job as department chair and honing her leadership principles.
“I would describe my style as servant-leader,” she said. “I see leadership not as a title or position but as the act of supporting a team as it seeks to move from its present state of achievement to the next level. We currently have a vision, mission and strategic plan we co-created. I see my role as helping everyone understand how they can contribute their strengths to achieve collective efficiency.”
Clemson President Jim Clements congratulated Ogle on her promotion.
“It has been a joy to get to know Jennifer through the President’s Leadership Institute and to watch her continue to grow as a leader,” he said. “She is an accomplished scholar and a passionate servant who has worked hard to provide opportunities for those underrepresented in STEM. Jennifer is well positioned to take on this next challenge as department chair.”
The department Ogle leads recently joined closer together with the Department of Environmental Engineering and Earth Sciences. Together they comprise the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Earth Sciences, a move that provides strategic advantages in pursuit of funding and top students.
Ogle said the department can expect changes in the coming years and vowed to be transparent, maintain an open line of communication, listen to concerns, support the team through transitions, encourage a growth mindset, and recognize and reward continuous improvement.
One of her top priorities will be to grow the department’s research enterprise, which will aid recruiting graduate students and establish a network of research professionals, she said. She is also working to update the labs in Lowry Hall, one of the top priorities of the department’s advisory board, faculty, students and alumni.
Among those welcoming Ogle to her new role was Robert Jones, executive vice president for academic affairs and provost.
“Dr. Ogle’s support for the success of all faculty, her wealth of research experience and her leadership skills which have been sharpened in recent years, position her for maximum impact,” he said. “I congratulate her and look forward to working with her in her new role.”
Ogle takes the place of Jesus M. de la Garza, who vacated his position as chair to become director of the new school. She served as associate chair under de la Garza for a year and a half before becoming acting chair.
“I have worked side-by-side with Jennifer since joining Clemson, and it has been a privilege,” de la Garza said. “Her vision encompasses what’s best for both students and society. Jennifer’s leadership will be key in taking the department to the next higher ground and successfully launching the new school.”
Ogle received a Bachelor of Science and a Master of Science, both in civil and environmental engineering, from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. She held a research position at Oak Ridge National Laboratory during graduate school.
She has worked as a research associate at the Texas A&M Transportation Institute. She then went to the Georgia Institute of Technology’s School of Civil and Environmental Engineering, where she worked as a research engineer and principal investigator of multi-million-dollar research projects, all while earning her Ph.D.
She joined Clemson in 2005 as an assistant professor and since then has accumulated numerous local and national awards.
One of her favorite awards is also the latest– the Gender Equity Champion Award from the Clemson University Commission on Women. She said the award represents years of dedication to women’s issues at Clemson and reminds her of her time as the commission’s chair, when 40-years of persistent work by many women resulted in approval of Clemson Child Development Center.
Ogle was named a Champion of Change for women in STEM by Former President Obama in 2011. She was faculty advisor of Clemson Engineers for Developing Countries in 2014 when it won a Heiskell Award in the study abroad category from the Institute of International Education.
More recent awards have honored her research, including the Safety Research Award and the Sweet Sixteen Award, both from the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.
Ogle’s research focuses on transportation safety and trying to find innovative ways of reducing traffic fatalities and injuries. She has secured over $15 million in research funding over her career.
Anand Gramopadhye, dean of the College of Engineering, Computing and Applied Sciences, congratulated Ogle and thanked the committee that was tasked with finding a new chair for the department, including committee chairperson Nigel Kaye.
“Jennifer brings to her new role a rich history of service, a passion for helping students achieve their maximum potential and an extensive research background,” Gramopadhye said. “This promotion is well-deserved, and she is well-positioned for success.”
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