Fatma Mili

Founder and Executive Director

Center for Trans-Institutional Capacity Building and Educational Equity in STEM (TransSTEM)

Contact Information:
TransSTEM Center
Purdue University
Discovery Learning Research Center
Room 393
207 South Martin Jischke Drive
West Lafayette, IN 47907-1791
Phone: 765.496.7075


There is no more opportune time to be in Higher Education than the present.  We face significant forces of change and transformation; these bring momentous responsibilities and exciting opportunities to mold the landscape and shape a vibrant higher education system that is relevant, responsive, and reformist in its goals and its methods.  This is the trajectory that Dr. Mili has naturally evolved towards during her career.

In every step of the journey, she created a vision shaped by the times and fit to the unique potentials of the people and places where she has worked.  She has successfully led others to realize that vision with passion, energy, and a full trust in the collective intelligence and capacity of her colleagues.  From her many contributions at Oakland University in Michigan - growing their Computer Science Department, starting a Bachelor of Science in Information Technology, creating a multidisciplinary Biomedical Engineering major that attracted many more women students than did the traditional engineering degrees - to her transformative efforts as co-founder of the Purdue Polytechnic Incubator and Institute and now as Director of the TransSTEM Center headquartered at Purdue, Dr. Mili is oriented toward productive change and to equipping students with the skills and the mindset they need to meet the technological and social demands of the world they will enter.



The three underlying themes in her profile are:

1. A Sense of Agency and Action: a strong belief that it is in her power and it is her duty to find the most effective way to contribute to her profession, her students, the institution she serves, and the local and global environment we live in.  

2. A spirit of openness and collaboration and a habit of listening to and empowering teams and individuals: Dr. Mili has a deep respect for the unique potential that every group or institution has to offer. The best results emerge from nurturing that potential and building from strength.  

3. A deep commitment to the necessity of diversity and equity. Higher Education institutions have a duty to be in the forefront of realizing equity (in terms of gender, ethnic, socio-economic, and any other characteristic), especially in science and engineering and in leadership positions. We must strive for gender, ethnic, and economic equity, not only because it is the right thing to do, but also because our success and our survival depend on it.  These themes continue to guide her through her professional and personal experiences.

Her Work at Purdue

Dr. Mili co-founded the Purdue Polytechnic Institute in 2014, which began as a leading-edge, higher education incubator for transdisciplinary study and competency-based education (CBE) and is now, due to her and her colleagues' leadership, Purdue's transformed and renamed College of Technology.  Her work with the Incubator and Institute taught her two key lessons.  The first is that there is a growing movement of faculty and administrators across the US who are committed to creating the next model of higher education, a model where learning and scholarship are relevant to this generation of students, where pedagogies are scientifically grounded, and where the system is equitable and inclusive.  The second lesson is that no single institution can do this work alone.  To have lasting impact, the efforts of many collaborating institutions must come together.  

With the goal of nurturing and supporting similar change-based initiatives across the country, she founded and is Executive Director of the Center for Trans-Institutional Capacity Building and Educational Equity in STEM (TransSTEM), headquartered at Purdue.  In this capacity, she is leading initiatives within Purdue as well as with faculty from other institutions to transform the ways in which we educate our students in the STEM disciplines.  One such initiative is Purdue's STEM Faculty Community of Practice in Equity and Privilege.  Facilitated by Dr. Mili, this group of twenty faculty and staff is focused on self-reflection and on practices that will lead to more equitable teaching approaches and classroom environments.  Diversity and equity are strong threads in each of the efforts at the Center.

She is also helping to lead a collaborative group of faculty and staff from Purdue and six other institutions across the US in reflective exercises aimed at changing ourselves, as educators, and the systems that we are part of.  Here is an excerpt from the group's manifesto - "We admit that we are part of the problem we wish to solve, but resolve to be the change we wish to see in academia. We must learn to intervene in academic systems in a way that both respects existing values, embodies new paradigms and causes change." 

Dr. Mili is also Professor of Computer Science and teaches classes in the Computer and Information Technology Department of the Purdue Polytechnic Institute.  

Her Past Work

Before joining Purdue, she was the Chair of the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at Oakland University. The Department offers two Bachelor of Science degrees, a Master and a Ph.D.  During her tenure as Department Head, Dr. Mili grew the research productivity and funding and streamlined the degrees. At Oakland University, she also served as Associate Dean of the College of Engineering and Computer Science.

She has been a Member of numerous boards and committees, including the Board of Directors of WEPAN (Women in Engineering ProActive Network), the ABET Academic Advisory Committee, Ivy Tech Information Technology and Computing Advisory Board, Purdue ADVANCE Steering Committee, and Affiliate Member of Purdue's Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies faculty.  In 2011 she received the Distinguished Woman in Higher Education Leadership Award from the Michigan American Council on Education (ACE).

Research Interests

Her current educational research is in broadening participation in STEM, together with making higher education in tune with the needs and expectations of society and with evidence-based findings about human motivation and human learning.  Her work has been funded by NSF, NIH, and Purdue University. Her past technical research includes formal methods in computing, program verification, distributed computing, and bio-inspired algorithms, funded by NSF, the State of Michigan, Daimler Chrysler, and TARDEC.


Dr. Mili obtained her degrees in Computer Science from the Universite Pierre et Marie Curie in Paris, France.