Thursday, December 7, 2017

Devoted to Engineering and Community: Jovanovich Honored by Louisiana Engineering Society for Civic Contributions

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To say Kim Jovanovich stays busy doesn’t exactly capture his momentum.

As the assistant dean of the College of Engineering, professor of practice and the Chevron USA Endowed Professor of Electrical Engineering, Jovanovich has become a passionate go-to spokesperson for all things engineering at the University of New Orleans.

“I tell students how important science and engineering are because they must depend on one another,” he said. “Science empowers the creativity and imagination of engineers who then take the new and exciting scientific discoveries and apply them to creating new products and technologies. This is how civilization technically matures into an advancing society capable of space exploration, electric vehicles, autonomous robots, new materials and diagnostic tools.”

The list of his activities is dizzying, but here are a few highlights: He teaches two to three courses each semester, advises the Eta Kappa Nu engineering society and the Dean’s Leadership Council on campus, and helps coordinate National Engineer’s Week events and other events that seek to involve students from the community. He has taught at UNO in some capacity since 1980. And since joining the UNO faculty full-time in 2012, he has traveled to countless high schools, middle schools and elementary schools as a lecturer and visitor in hopes of spreading the gospel of engineering, math, science and technology—and the good news of UNO’s programs. He works with the Pelicans, the New Orleans Babycakes and the Saints on STEM outreach programs. And he’s always up for a turn at the mic to share his passion for engineering as a career.

While science and engineering pursuits are clearly central to his message, Jovanovich said he always hopes to convey something broader about what it means to learn: “Education is important regardless of what career path you follow,” he said. “Knowledge is one of the few things that can never be taken away from a young person.”

When Jovanovich is not involved in UNO-related pursuits, he invests his time and interests in improving New Orleans, the city where he was born and raised, and beyond. He is an organist, an organ restorer and a civic volunteer.

Now, his contributions are being recognized by the Louisiana Engineering Society, which has named Jovanovich the recipient of the 2018 Andrew M. Lockett Medal for Civic Activity. Given annually if merited, the award aims to recognize a Louisiana engineer who has exhibited distinguished service in the interest of public service and without compensation.

His peers say he is deserving.

“Professor Jovanovich has been a tremendous asset to our College of Engineering, the University of New Orleans and the greater New Orleans region,” said Emir Macari, dean of the College of Engineering. “He has been a champion for STEM education and has the beat of our region's K-12 system where he often lectures and informs our youth of the great opportunities for them and their families within the broader engineering industries.

“Students describe Jovanovich as the best professor they've ever had because, not only does he know the theory, but has actually successfully used in practice.”

Jovanovich serves on many boards, including boards of directors for the Greater New Orleans Science and Engineering Fair, FIRST Louisiana-Mississippi, Inc. and Recovery Associates, Inc. (RAI), an organization that seeks to facilitate rebuilding efforts following catastrophes such as Hurricane Katrina and flooding in South Louisiana.

RAI established a program called Camp Restore at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church, where Jovanovich served as senior organist, choirmaster and a music minister for 25 years. When the school associated with the church was damaged following Katrina, the group converted the space into dormitories to house, feed and deploy volunteers who came to New Orleans to help rebuild homes, churches and communities. In the last three years alone, 8,000 volunteers have come through the facility, with more than 27,000 using the space as a base of operations since 2006.

In his role as the only engineer on the RAI board, Jovanovich, whose business and home were destroyed during Katrina, often voluntarily advises the group when it comes to more technical operations and projects. He has also assisted with the establishment of a Camp Restore site at Trinity Lutheran Church in Baton Rouge following the 2016 floods as well as another at Mt. Calvary Lutheran Church in Detroit, a city that has long struggled with population loss and resulting blight. He says the concept of the project is simple, but the effects have been humbling and profound.

Karen Thomas, associate dean in the College of Sciences, is responsible for STEM outreach and recruitment at the University of New Orleans. Thomas and Jovanovich often work together to coordinate events that draw young people together in celebration of STEM exploration at the University.

“Kim is always willing to help UNO students and the broader community,” Thomas said. “His commitment and passion for engineering comes through in everything he does and he is a true inspiration to budding engineers.”

Jovanovich holds a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Tulane University, and a master’s degree in telecommunications from the University of Southern Mississippi. He is a lifetime member of Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, as well as a member of the Louisiana Engineering Society, IEEE Lightwave Society, Tau Beta Pi, Eta Kappa Nu and the Illumination Society of North America. He received the Louisiana Engineering Society’s Faculty Professionalism Award in 2015 and he advises numerous graduate students theses as well as non-thesis research.

Jovanovich has been married to Janet Meynier Jovanovich for 43 years. They have three sons and six grandchildren.

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