Four finalists for engineering dean speak at UB
Published: Sunday, October 7, 2012
Updated: Monday, November 5, 2012 20:11
The School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) has narrowed its search for a new dean to four finalists.
The search committee has chosen Liesl Folks, Hossein Haj-Hariri, Fotis Sotiropoulos and Joseph Hartman as the top candidates for the position.
One of these four will replace Harvey G. Stenger Jr., who stepped down last March when he was chosen as president of Binghamton University. Rajan Batta, an industrial and systems engineering professor, has served as the acting dean since Stenger’s departure.
The search committee – co-chaired by Venu Govidarju, a computer science and engineering professor, and Bruce Pitman, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences – privately interviewed the candidates. Between Oct. 1 and Oct. 4, the committee held a public forum where the candidates discussed their goals for the position with the UB community.
Pitman has high hopes for the future of the SEAS. He said the financial situation of UB has stabilized and the future is looking bright, so the position of dean is a highly influential one and there are numerous possibilities.
“Together with the faculty, the next dean needs to develop a vision for the School [of Engineering and Applied Sciences], and a pathway to increase the prestige and reputation for SEAS,” Pitman said.
Folks is a nanotechnologist in the magnetic data storage industry in Silicon Valley. She is an internationally recognized leader in Scanning Probe Microscopy. Folks received a Ph.D. in physics from the University of Western Australia and an MBA from Cornell University.
She said that in addition to supporting Tripathi’s vision of the future, the dean should take an active role in enhancing the reputation of UB. This would attract both “higher caliber people” and funding to UB and SEAS. She also describes herself as a “non-traditional candidate,” but she believes her 15 years of experience in the high-technology industry sector can be an asset to the position.
“It is my expectation that I can leverage my experiences to bring a fresh perspective to the goals and challenges that SEAS must address,” Folks said. “There is a tremendous resonance between my career experiences and skill set and President Tripathi’s guiding principles, the ‘Three E’s:’ excellence, engagement and efficiency.”
Haj-Hariri is a professor and chair of the department of mechanical and aerospace engineering at the University of Virginia. He received a bachelor’s degree, master’s degree and a Ph.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Haj-Hariri is impressed by the upper administration and planning at UB and hopes to help improve the state of SEAS. He believes UB is on the right path to success. For continued success, he plans to direct the focus to large, collaborative research programs. He believes UB and the surrounding community can benefit with the help of a successful dean.
“Having spoken to a large number of potential colleagues and students, I have every confidence that the university will be moving ahead at an enviable pace,” Haj-Hariri said. “A strong SEAS will help UB lead the revitalization of Buffalo.”
Sotiropoulos is a professor at the University of Minnesota in mechanical and civil engineering, and he is the director of two prestigious laboratories at the university. He did his undergraduate work in mechanical engineering at the National Technological University of Athens, Greece. He received his master’s from Penn State and Ph.D. from the University of Cincinnati, both in aerospace engineering.
Sotiropoulos believes UB and SEAS is heading down the right path and sees UB on the verge of becoming one of the elite engineering schools in the country. As dean, he would try to grow faculty size, expand research, encourage collaboration and strive for innovation.
“My vision is to position the school in the upper echelon of engineering programs recognized by peers as a leader in 21st-century education and for major contributions in tackling societal challenges of global importance through cutting-edge scholarly research, a translational research mindset and entrepreneurial spirit,” Sotiropoulos said.