Search for new engineering dean begins

Underrepresented minority rates are low among tenured engineering faculty

| Contributing Reporter

The search for the 10th dean of the School of Engineering & Applied Science began Friday.

In an e-mail to faculty, Provost Edward Macias, executive vice chancellor for academic affairs, encouraged Washington University faculty to submit applications and nominations for the position of dean by Dec. 14, 2009. The selected candidate will succeed current interim Dean Salvatore Sutera in June 2010, when Sutera plans to step down. Applications will be reviewed by the Advisory Committee on the Appointment of the Dean of Engineering, co-chaired by Macias; Joseph Ackerman, chair of the chemistry department; and Shelly Sakiyama-Elbert, associate professor of biomedical engineering. Other members of the committee include professors; department chairs; Evan Kharasch, interim vice chancellor for research; and Chris Kroeger, associate dean for engineering and applied science.

“The Committee has been asked to identify and recommend candidates from within the Washington University community,” Macias wrote in an e-mail. “Eligible candidates [are] those who have considerable working knowledge of, and experience within, the Washington University academic and administrative environment and culture.”

Macias also wrote that past alumni and University faculty are qualified to apply. The future dean is expected to act on the University Council and implement the goals of the engineering school. These goals include increasing collaboration between the school and other University departments and handling the financial aspects of the school.

The future dean will play a part in hiring new faculty, promoting groundbreaking research, and creating new academic programs.

Students, appreciative of the work completed by Sutera, also look forward to the selection of the new dean. Senior Dan Brewster, president of EnCouncil, said he hopes that the new dean will be accessible, open to feedback, and an active part of the engineering community.

“The new dean will have to find a middle route between being very visible and being a behind-the-scenes person,” Brewster said. Brewster also believes that the school should continue its efforts in diversifying its faculty.

According to the “Report on Trends in Faculty Diversity: Washington University Danforth Campus,” which is provided by the provost’s office, none of the current tenured and tenure-track faculty at the Engineering School are from an underrepresented minority.

The report, according to Lynn McCloskey, assistant provost in analysis, is intended to increase awareness in the University community of diversity trends on campus. Underrepresented minorities include blacks, Native Americans and Hispanics.

McCloskey explained that the lack of minorities in the engineering school can be explained by the lack of minority representation in the engineering field itself. Since there aren’t many underrepresented minority students in the engineering field, she said, there won’t be many underrepresented tenure and tenure-track faculty.

“Underrepresented minorities are less represented in the engineering disciplines than in fields like law or social work, where there is greater distribution,” said McCloskey. “We certainly think there’s opportunity to increase the underrepresented minorities in these schools.”

At least 3 percent of tenured and tenure-track faculty from the rest of the Danforth Campus schools come from underrepresented minorities.

The engineering school has been taking steps to improve its diversity levels. In all faculty openings found on the engineering school Web site, including professorships and research positions, women and minorities are encouraged to apply.

Macias expects candidates for the dean position to continue to promote diversity in the engineering school. “This is a priority for the entire university,” he wrote.

Students also recognize the school’s efforts.

“I know that the [engineering] school is working very hard on recruiting faculty from underrepresented minorities,” Brewster said.