CESTA gets new dean

The new dean and director of land-grant programs of the FAMU College of Engineering Sciences, Technology and Agriculture was welcomed with high praises.

Makola M. Abdullah took charge of his new position Jan. 7.

Abdullah has a storied employment history at FAMU. He joined the FAMU faculty in 1996 as an assistant professor. Abdullah also served as a department of civil engineering professor and most recently, the associate vice president of research.

Abdullah, who is just 38 years old, replaced Samuel L. Donald, who worked as CESTA’s interim dean. Abdullah is also the youngest African American to receive a Ph. D. in engineering from Northwestern University.

The dean is also an internationally renowned researcher and educator with an expertise in earthquake and wind engineering. Abdullah has lectured in Japan, South Africa and across the United States. He also has written more than 25 technical publications.

One of the most important responsibilities of the dean of CESTA is gaining funding for research. Abdullah’s research is currently funded by the National Science Foundation, which includes the placement and design of output feedback controllers, optimization of algorithms for discrete location placement, robust control design and minimization of structural pounding.

Abdullah said one of his goals is to receive more money for the school to improve the program. This requires a lot of time writing proposals and grants to gain funding from sponsors.

“The number one thing we can do to improve our college is to let everyone know the best kept secret at FAMU,” he said.

In the 2006 Annual Report on Research, out of the $28 million awarded to the 10 colleges in the University that year, CESTA received almost one-third of that money. Abdullah has been entrusted with more than $3 million worth of research funding.

His colleague Dale Wesson, an associate professor and chairman for biological and agricultural systems engineering, said Abdullah is the right man to get the job done.

“He has the experience of writing grants and proposals for colleges and knows how to manage the money he’s awarded,” Wesson said. “I think he’ll do a good job and move CESTA forward.”

Wesson also said Abdullah’s reputation has gained a lot of good contacts in the industry that can benefit him and the college in the future.

Outside the classroom, Abdullah likes to be involved with the community and strives to see his students excel personally as well as academically.

“The college gives many students the skills to have businesses that can have a positive outlook on the black economy and hire black Americans,” Abdullah said.

His wife, Ahkinyala Abdullah, a biology professor at FAMU, noted his potential.

“He likes to be active and wants to make a difference,” she said. “He believes students are the most important part of the University.”

Makola Abduallah is involved in mentoring programs in Tallahassee and appeared on the BET show “Teen Summit.” Abdullah is also credited for graduating four Ph.D. students and six M.S. scholars in the engineering sciences.

One of those students, Ken Walsh, teaches at the FAMU-FSU College of Engineering.

Emil Muhammad, 20, a biological and agricultural systems engineering student from New York City, is a student of Walsh’s.

“He [Walsh] tells us that Dr. Abdullah never gave up on him,” Muhammad said. “He attributes a lot of his professional success to Dr. Abdullah.”

There are students and faculty members who have visions as to what they would like to see happen in CESTA over the next few years.

Charles McGee, interim CESTA dean from August 2003 – August 2006, said he would like Abdullah to implement new policies and strive to increase the number of students in the college.

“Our enrollment has been flat for the past couple of years. His number one challenge will be to get more students in our program,” McGee said. “There’s a dire need for minorities in these fields and they don’t know of all the opportunities available for them.”

McGee also discussed a farm in Quincy that CESTA oversees. He would like to see it become more developed so that students can use it for hands-on learning and the Gadsden community can use it for recreational purposes.