The School of Engineering and Applied Science launched a search last month for its next dean.
A team of 14 faculty, administrators, trustees, students and alumni are working to find the next leader of the school, which has not had a permanent leader for the past three months, officials said. A job description for the position was released last week and places an emphasis on prioritizing research, fundraising efforts and inclusivity .
David Dolling, the former dean of SEAS, stepped down at the end of August, and Rumana Riffat, a former professor of civil engineering, has served as the school’s interim dean since the start of the semester.
The job description outlines priorities for the new dean, including improving the school’s undergraduate gender balance, retaining top faculty, working with federal agencies for research and growing academic departments.
Since SEAS is surrounded by federal funding agencies, international engineering firms, a medical school and a hospital, a dean will “build transformational relationships abound,” the description states.
Provost Forrest Maltzman said new deans typically begin their tenure during the summer, but he said the search will conclude “when the candidate we want is identified and accepts.”
Maltzman declined to say if the University is recruiting potential candidates from outside institutions and, if so, how many. Officials also launched a search for the new dean of the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences last month.
The University hired the outside firm Isaacson, Miller to help conduct a search for potential candidates, Maltzman said. A representative from the firm, which is also overseeing the CCAS search, declined to comment on the process.
Maltzman said SEAS’ location in the District offers “unique education” opportunities in leadership and training in engineering and applied science. He added that the dean must engage with the D.C. community to further the schools’ educational and research missions.
“The school is in a very strong position with robust enrollments, a research profile that is rapidly expanding, a solid financial base and a commitment to providing its students individualized attention,” he said.
He said the school has a highly ranked online program and first-class facilities, including the Science and Engineering Hall, a $275 million project that opened in 2015.
“There is no question that the school is on a very good trajectory, and we need a leader who recognizes this and can strategically guide the school forward,” Maltzman said.
Emilia Entcheva, the chair of the search committee, declined to comment, deferring to Maltzman. Seven of the eight faculty members on the committee did not return multiple requests for comment.
Charles Garris, a member of the search committee and a professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, said the University is looking for a dean who will prioritize research and the student experience – two of University President Thomas LeBlanc’s priorities for the University.
“We need somebody who has a good understanding of how a science and engineering school operates and as a top-notch research institution,” he said. “I’d say that would be a No. 1 priority.”
He said the new dean should seek to expand the graduate student pool, which will help the school’s faculty “amplify” research efforts. He added that the school needs a dean who will support faculty research endeavors because otherwise, faculty will not be “as incentivized” to generate grants.
“Right now, we have a lot of superstar faculty, but they spend an awful amount of time on mundane paperwork, and in a first-rate research university, faculty should not have to,” he said. “Part of the problem is that we’ve recruited a lot of our faculty from premier universities, and they know how a good research university operates.”
Gina Adam, an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering, said a new dean should “fight” for the engineering school since resources for research and projects at SEAS can be limited.
“I think it needs to be a very well-respected individual,” she said. “Respect is very important for a leader and when somebody new comes to the institution. It’s also equally important to be well-known in the field, a well-respected researcher and have a track record of basically doing good things for the discipline.”
Adam said a new dean should prioritize working with the federal institutions in D.C., like the National Institutes of Health, NASA and the highly anticipated Amazon headquarters that is set to open in Arlington County, Va.
“I think the dean has to be very proactive about it, meet with Amazon, meet with other stakeholders and have career days, or maybe even specific programs that are targeted either online or part-time or just even certificates,” she said.
Ilena Peng contributed reporting.