Ralph Etienne-Cummings appointed next vice provost for faculty affairs at Johns Hopkins

Ralph Etienne-CummingsRalph Etienne-Cummings

Professor of electrical and computer engineering will succeed Andrew Douglas, who has served in the role since July 2019

Ralph Etienne-Cummings , a Johns Hopkins University faculty member for more than two decades and a pioneering researcher in the fields of mobile robotics and legged locomotion whose work focuses on the interface of neuroscience and electrical and computer engineering, has been appointed the university’s next vice provost for faculty affairs, effective July 1.

He will succeed Andrew Douglas , who has served in the role since July 2019. Douglas will continue on as executive vice dean at the university’s Whiting School of Engineering.

"Andrew has been a tremendous colleague and has personified the One University ethos during his tenure in the Provost’s Office," Provost Sunil Kumar wrote in a message today announcing Etienne-Cummings’ appointment. "His values and leadership skill have been invaluable in increasing the scope and positive impact of the Office of Faculty Affairs, particularly with respect to improving shared governance at Johns Hopkins.

"We are fortunate to be able to appoint another esteemed member of the Whiting School... to succeed Andrew in this important leadership position."

Kumar described Etienne-Cummings-who joined the faculty in 1998 and chaired the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering from 2014-2020-as "a strong and collaborative leader." He has been recognized for promoting the increased participation of women and members of underrepresented groups in STEM fields, and he established new recruitment policies in Electrical and Computer Engineering that led to a more diverse and high-achieving faculty cohort. He has also developed successful retention and mentoring practices for junior faculty, Kumar said.

Etienne-Cummings has published nearly 400 technical articles, books/book chapters, and patents related to his research pursuits over a career that spans more than three decades. He is the founding director of the Institute of Neuromorphic Engineering and has received numerous awards and recognitions for his research, including the National Science Foundation’s Career and Office of Naval Research Young Investigator Program Award and multiple JHU Discovery Awards. In 2006, Etienne-Cummings was named a Visiting African Fellow and a Fulbright Fellowship Grantee for a sabbatical at the University of Cape Town, South Africa.

He will remain a Whiting School faculty member during his term as vice provost and will begin transitioning to his new role in the next few months.

"The university’s prominence is built on faculty excellence, and the way that we maintain faculty excellence is by providing the right environment for departments to recruit, to mentor, to retain, and to celebrate the successes of our really remarkable faculty," Etienne-Cummings said. "This role gives me an opportunity to contribute to that process, and I think there are many places where we can make significant improvement."

Etienne-Cummings cited diversity, equity, and inclusion; bolstering support for research in emerging fields outside of the university’s traditional strengths; and ensuring continued strength in the health sciences as areas of focus in his new role.

"Giving faculty a voice in governance has been massive over the last three or four years, especially under the guidance of Andrew Douglas," he added. "And now I am in position to build on the work that he has done and stand on his giant shoulders."

During his three-year term, Douglas was instrumental in the creation of the Tenure Advisory Committee, a 14-member group made up of senior faculty from across the institution to advise JHU President Ron Daniels on tenure cases while also strengthening and bringing continuity to the evaluation processes across schools. He also played a key role in the establishment of the University Pandemic Academic Advisory Committee, or UPAAC, an academic leadership group that has contributed faculty perspectives to help guide the university’s COVID-19 response.

More recently, Douglas has led efforts to apply the UPAAC model to a new representative faculty body called the Johns Hopkins University Council, which will give faculty an avenue for input on emerging issues at the university. He also helped steward the Faculty Diversity Initiative, originally launched in 2015, and played a key role in developing the new Faculty Diversity Initiative goals outlined in the Second Roadmap on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.