2023 Rising Star Award Recipient

Jackie Milhans

Jackie Milhans

Director of Research Computing and Data
Northwestern University


For traveling an impressive career path; for leading through change with grace and kindness; for promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in the workplace

The 2023 EDUCAUSE Rising Star Award is awarded to Jackie Milhans for her cross-organizational work to promote collaboration and support faculty and student researchers, her commitment to improving diversity among IT teams at her institution, and her many contributions to the EDUCAUSE community.

Jackie received a bachelor of science degree in materials science and engineering from Carnegie Mellon University in 2006. She went on to earn a doctorate in materials science and engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology in 2010 and was a postdoctoral research associate at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico from 2011 to 2013.

Jackie began her higher education career in 2013 as a Senior Computational Specialist in the recently established Research Computing Services department at Northwestern University. Among her many achievements in that role, Jackie increased high-performance computing (HPC) onboarding with research faculty, resulting in a 500 percent increase in grant funding for Northwestern’s HPC cluster. She created and organized Computational Research Day, a cross-disciplinary annual research symposium. This event was pivotal in shifting perceptions of how Northwestern IT professionals could partner with researchers. She also introduced training programs to teach researchers how to leverage digital tools and approaches in their work and established data-focused research services.

Jackie’s career trajectory demonstrates the determination, ability, knowledge, and skills that make her a worthy recipient of the Rising Star Award. Since joining Northwestern University, she has earned several promotions, moving to Lead Computational Specialist, Manager of Computing and Data Support Services, and Associate Director of Research Computing Services. In October 2022, she was named the Director of Research Computing and Data and is responsible for the university-wide strategic planning and delivery of research support services. Jackie excels at aligning goals and developing services that meet the needs of the research community at Northwestern University.

Jackie champions local and national conversations on the professionalization of research computing staff and has a passion for helping people grow. She has created hiring, recruitment, development, and retention practices that have successfully improved the diversity and performance of her teams. When Jackie joined Research Computing, she was the only woman on the team. Today, the team reflects the identities and backgrounds of the faculty and student body, resulting in services that better meet researchers’ needs. Through keen hiring, staff development, and partnership, she has built a team and services that have gained institutional and national recognition, delivering some of the most mature research support services in academia. This success has recently resulted in additional institutional investment into her team. Beyond research support, as a co-founder and co-chair of the Northwestern IT DEI Steering Committee, Jackie has worked with colleagues to transform organizational culture.

Jackie has a long record of service to the EDUCAUSE community. She is a past co-lead of the EDUCAUSE Research Computing and Data Community Group, has been an active member in several EDUCAUSE Community Groups, and has served on the EDUCAUSE DEI Advisory Committee, the EDUCAUSE Young Professionals Advisory Committee, and the EDUCAUSE 2019 Annual Conference Program Committee. In addition to her numerous research publications, she has written several articles for EDUCAUSE Review and was part of a four-member panel discussion on “Bridging the Research and Compliance Communities” at the 2022 EDUCAUSE Cybersecurity and Privacy Professionals Conference.

Jackie’s commitment to professional development is exemplified by her drive to learn what is required to be a great leader. Her ability to bring together diverse people and perspectives, dedication to professional growth, and wide-ranging leadership skills have made—and will continue to make—a lasting and positive impact on the Northwestern University and EDUCAUSE communities.

This EDUCAUSE Award is sponsored by Moran Technology Consulting, Gold Partner.