The Fullerton Chamber of Commerce awarded Raman Unnikrishnan, Ph.D., dean of the college of engineering and computer science, the Educator of the Year award.
The award is given to an educator, administrator, business owner, school, institution or business that demonstrated innovation or a renewed foundation for growth, according to the Fullerton Chamber of Commerce website.
Unnikrishnan, more commonly known as Dean Unni, joined CSUF’s Engineering and Computer Science department in 2001 after being head of the engineering department at at Rochester Institute of Technology in Rochester, New York for a decade.
“I am very humbled… on a personal level, when someone says you deserve something, that’s validation of your personal works and professional accomplishments,” Unnikrishnan said.
Since coming to CSUF, Unnikrishnan’s leadership transformed this college with the support of the faculty, said Shawn Wang Ph. D., professor of electrical engineering.
Wang joined CSUF a year before Unnikrishnan arrived.
Prior to Unnikrishnan making his transition to CSUF, the university’s engineering and computer science department faced low enrollment numbers, said Mohinder Grewal, Ph.D., professor of electrical engineering. Unnikrishnan’s outreach efforts to the community and within the industry helped to bring those numbers up, he said.
Those efforts, coupled with is Unnikrishnan’s to keep the college’s finances in check, went a long way to building up enrollment numbers, said Caecilla Gotama, CSUF Leadership Development Council member for Engineering and Computer Science.
“He is one of those rare individuals who have a business sense. He understands that balancing the budget is very important. He was able to do that and slowly rebuild the college,” Gotama said.
Unnikrishnan was hired several years after a 1996 audit of the college, which faced the possibility of being shut down in the early 1990s, according to a previously published Daily Titan article. After he took over as dean, he implemented programs focusing on recruitment, retention, research, resources and reputation.
When Unnikrishnan took over in 2001, the college had an undergraduate enrollment 1,331 students and a graduate enrollment of 459 students.
Since then, the College of Engineering and Computer Science has seen the largest growth of any of CSUF’s eight colleges, reporting 2,993 undergraduate students and 1,229 graduate students enrolled in 2014.
Unnikrishnan also oversaw the implementation of computer engineering, software engineering and environmental engineering master’s programs in 2004.
“Number (of enrollment) can sometimes go up and down but when you change the culture of a college it is more sustainable,” Wang said.
“In a way, had it not been for them, what I do is not relevant. The fact that they chose me is an indication of how good of a job faculty and student have done,” Unnikrishnan said.
Unnikrishnan’s main concern is the success of his students, Wang said, and that is why the college continues to thrive.
“For everything he did, he considered the students first, and he’s right. Students are the reasons that we are here. So he tried to maximize opportunity for all students,” he said.
Originally from India, Unnikrishnan came to America with a degree in electrical engineering from University of Kerla, India.
He pursued his master’s degree in electrical engineering at South Dakota State, and his Ph.D. in the same subject at the University of Missouri. After receiving his doctorate, Unnikrishnan moved to New York as an assistant professor at the Rochester Institute of Technology.
In the mid-1980s, he became a full-time professor there and, by the early 90s, he was head of the electrical engineering department.