I spend a lot of time in meetings, most of them having to do with one of two subjects: how to make the DeMatteis School more visible to a wider public, and how to generate more funds for continually improving the educational quality of the school. Of course, these twin beacons that guide a Dean’s work schedule are intertwined: the more visibility you get as a school, the more likely you are to attract donors willing to invest in your educational mission, and the more funds you bring in, the easier it becomes to raise your standing in educational circles.
This past week it was my pleasure to chair the Fall meeting of our Advisory Board, a really collegial group of professionals who give of their time (and even of their income) to support what we are doing as a school, and to give guidance and leadership on a number of endeavors we are engaged in. They have rolled up their sleeves and dug into issues related to curriculum, job preparation, visibility among companies, updating the face we show potential students on our website, and other challenges affecting our school. I was able to thank them at this particular meeting with more than just anticipated rewards from their hard work. I was able to present them with a number that has come (perhaps disproportionately so) to symbolize success in the academic world. I refer of course to the rankings that are annually published in US News & World Report, and are eagerly pored over by students, parents, admission staffs and others. The category where we are matched with peer institutions is one which ranks the non-PhD granting engineering schools in the United States. Exactly 200 universities and colleges across the country have such engineering schools, and in the September listings, we jumped to #38 from the previous year’s ranking of #55. Translated to percentiles, that means we went from being in the top 30% nationwide to the top 20% nationwide.
Gratifying indeed, but the last attitude we want to take away from that listing is complacency. Already we have embarked on our new Bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering, and Bioengineering is right behind it. In our Engineering Science program, which has housed these two programs for many years, both have grown substantially, and it is time to launch them as independent entities. Each now enrolls approximately 100 students, and we have enough faculty in each area to guarantee stability and breadth of coverage. Similarly, we are moving forward in Computer Science with our program in Cybersecurity, with a goal of obtaining National Security Agency accreditation as a National Center for Academic Excellence in that field. And there is more to come, which will no doubt occupy this column in succeeding months.
I should mention that, while I do spend a lot of time at meetings and they are often fulfilling when we can see tangible results that improve our school, I have also had the opportunity this semester to step back into the classroom for the first time since becoming Dean. I love teaching, and I could not bypass this chance, which brings me back to what all the planning meetings are all about: the dissemination of knowledge to inquiring minds. Our ultimate goal is to let those talented people loose in the world to make it a better place to live in, and I truly enjoy seeing that happen.