Message from ISE External Advisory Board Chair, Bobby Smyth

A Decade Later …

Bobby Smyth

It was 10 years ago when Dr. Phil Smith asked me to join the External Advisory Board (EAB) right after I graduated, and I was shocked. The men and women in this group were my heroes, and I get to join these meetings now? Truly, it was an honor I didn’t expect because as a student leader I was familiar with their backgrounds, their scholarship generosity and their passionate time giveback through many different avenues of supporting our students through sharing their experiences.

They even fly from all around the country or world to join these meetings. Why? I interviewed the group and learned the answer was unanimous – because of how relatable the students in the Baker Family are. Every single one of them could remember exactly what it’s like to discover, choose and ultimately succeed in their careers – in large part because of their time in Baker. 

Another shock came when my now peers asked me to chair this board. I honestly believed I was being asked to roll off, but now eight years later I wasn’t the “student voice” anymore helping with quarter-to-semester switch curriculum. I was an employer and industry voice, too! How cool? This is the only thing outside of AMEND I’ve done for 10 years!! 

I share this personal story to explain that the External Advisory Board to Dr. Farhang Pourboghrat continues to be challenged to grow and evolve just like our students! As incoming ACT scores, average GPAs and national rankings all rise in ISE so, too, must our methods of giveback. Our students are crushing expectations with advanced areas of study, job placement rates and campus leadership (including during COVID!) 

The EAB is currently in year two of a three-year strategic plan to leverage the existing passion and engagement all throughout the year. We now have five committees with team leaders, and these groups meet in between EAB meetings in partnership with faculty and staff to truly help “get stuff done” and ultimately help raise our ranking. 

Initiatives in progress by the EAB and the Department chair, associate chairs, staff, and development officers:

  1. Friends of ISE Department Fund – This fund will provide annual support to the Department ensuring there are enough resources to make strategic planning decisions. This foundation of support is crucial to the long-term sustainability and future growth of the Department. Our goal is to raise enough funds to become endowed enabling the Department to permanently benefit from it. Learn more or donate to the fund.
  2. Digital Brand Presence and Awareness – We are tackling the legacy challenges of “What is an integrated systems engineer?” and “How do we scale our stories? “
  3. Career Development and Interview Skills – The EAB is sponsoring sessions, including very modern approaches to landing positions in highly sophisticated roles matching each of the curriculum tracks.
  4. Strategic Plan Development – All EAB members have a board of directors or set of company officers or investors we frequently report to on progress. As such, we are leveraging this experience to assist Dr. Pourboghrat and the faculty in building and refreshing the Department’s annual strategic plan, operating budget and priorities to align with our purpose! 
  5. Top-Ranked Program – Curriculum advisory and technical depth of experiences from industry continues to be a core pillar of the EAB, as we partner to ensure, not only do we meet ABET standards, but we are innovators and leaders among ISE Departments in the Big 10 and the nation. We expressly desire to produce a top 10 program and students who are held in the highest regard by employers and graduate programs. 

We hope that you, as alumni, see some of the results of this tremendous work. We welcome your encouragement, ideas and involvement.


Thank you so much!

Bobby Smyth, ISE '12

ISE External Advisory Board Chair

Managing Partner, AMEND Group