Dr. Robin Coger begins tenure as provost

Today marks the start of Dr. Robin Coger’s tenure as provost and senior vice chancellor for academic affairs at East Carolina University. Coger comes to ECU from North Carolina A&T State University, where she served as dean of the College of Engineering and professor of mechanical engineering.

“The provost is the chief academic officer of the university,” Coger said. “So this means that I have the honor of leveraging all of my past academic experiences, as a student, as faculty, as a researcher, as a leader, as an administrator, and even as a university citizen, to collaborate with Chancellor Rogers and ECU’s faculty, staff, students, university leaders, alumni and friends to further advance the curricula, the research, and the service and impact goals of this great university.”

Coger said she appreciates the enthusiasm and commitment she has seen from the Pirate Nation.

“I learned a long time ago that a university’s people are its most important resource,” she said. “And at ECU, starting with the chancellor, and inclusive even of our incoming new students across every level, we all have an opportunity to apply our diverse talents, our perspectives and our hard work to ensure that tomorrow’s ECU will be even stronger than the ECU of today.”

The role of provost at ECU has grown with this summer’s university reorganization, and Coger will oversee all academic programs and functions, including Laupus Library, the College of Nursing, the College of Allied Health Sciences, the School of Dental Medicine, and Research, Economic Development and Engagement. She said the model will create new opportunities for interdisciplinary collaboration and coordination.

From her first job as a student intern in a research lab when she was in high school, she has seen the importance of paying attention to details and of teamwork. As a researcher, Coger’s research work in biomedical engineering has centered on creating replacement organs.

“Our team was focused on tissue and organ function more than we focused on the aesthetics,” she said. “So we weren’t seeking to build an organ that looked just like a liver. We were focused on creating innovations to help patients whose livers were failing by providing a bridge solution until a transplant was available.”

Her work in biomedicine reinforced her belief in interdisciplinary research, which she sees as a strength at ECU. At UNC Charlotte, she was the founding director of the Center for Biomedical Engineering Science, a research center designed to synergize the efforts of biomedical faculty from across four colleges, multiple academic departments and two Charlotte medical establishments.

Coger comes to ECU from N.C. A&T, where she served as dean of the College of Engineering and professor of mechanical engineering.

Coger comes to ECU from N.C. A&T, where she served as dean of the College of Engineering and professor of mechanical engineering.

“When you’re bringing different minds and expertise together to create exciting results, it really is a wonderful place to be,” she said. “The strengths ECU has in health care and health sciences, combined with the excellent academic research that’s going on, I think we’re going to create some wonderful things together as one ECU.”

Coger said she also admires the role ECU plays in the community and throughout eastern North Carolina, and she recognizes the importance of the partnerships between the university and business and industry, local government, and community organizations.

“Just like our university, I’m multi-dimensional; I’m not only this position,” she said. “I love my family, I enjoy traveling and learning about multiple cultures and foods, and I enjoy the arts and nature.”

A longtime advocate for women and under-represented demographic groups in engineering, Coger also embraces the opportunity to contribute to ECU’s efforts to improve equity and diversity on campus.

“Every university can do better in the DEI arena, including ECU. I think it begins by first realizing that all people are human beings — no matter what the surface layer appears to be, or the accent by which I speak,” she said. When a community embraces and welcomes “people of all different hues, and all different cultures and all different religions, you make an environment that is actually better for everyone. That always results in a stronger university.”

Coger said she looks forward to learning more about the culture of ECU and meeting the faculty, staff and students. There’s mutual value, she said, in thinking about how we can work together for the benefit of this university.

Coger received her undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering from Cornell University, earned her master’s degree and doctorate in mechanical engineering from the University of California-Berkeley and completed her postdoctoral research as a fellow at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital.

She is a fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers and of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering. Coger serves on the National Science Foundation’s Directorate for Engineering Advisory Committee, is a board member of FIRST, which seeks to inspire young people to the be science, engineering and technology leaders and innovators; and is completing her service on the Committee on Defense Research at HBCUs and Other Minority Institutions — convened by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine. Coger is also a member of the editorial board of the American Society of Engineering Education publication, PRISM.

Chancellor Philip Rogers said Coger’s experience in higher education leadership and her understanding of ECU’s mission make her the right person to lead the university’s academic operations. “Dr. Coger has already shown that her knowledge of the rapidly changing academic environment and her dedication to higher education will be a benefit to ECU,” he said. “Please join me in welcoming the Coger family to Greenville and ECU.”

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