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September 28, 2017

Forum Participants Describe Ideal Candidate for Swanson School of Engineering Dean

Swanson School of Engineering staff, faculty and students are looking for a new dean who can raise the school’s stature from great to exceptional and who understands the needs of both faculty and students.

Attendees at the final forum held by the search committee to replace the Swanson School’s U.S. Steel Dean of Engineering Gerald D. Holder, who will step down from the deanship and return to the faculty in fall 2018, expressed to University administration representatives a wide variety of hopes for the school’s new head.

Following three previous forums geared to the school’s staff, faculty and students, this event for the entire University community drew about 25 people on Sept. 15 and was moderated by Stephen Wisniewski, vice provost for data and information and chair of the search committee.

He said he felt University community participation in the dean search process was positive.

“The main thing people feel is that the school is running well and in excellent shape and they want the next leader of the school to keep it on this positive trajectory,” said Wisniewski. “Dean Holder has done an amazing job and created an excellent foundation for the next leader.”

Participants in the last forum pressed for a dean who:

  • participates in campus life and is approachable by faculty and students alike;
  • has experience securing funding for engineering programs;
  • will support programs that nurture junior faculty across the school;
  • can institute more career counseling for undergraduates;
  • knows the academic world, whether or not he/she is currently in industry;
  • is adept at solving issues that affect more than one constituency or department; and
  • will help the school become a leader in designing effective diversity programs.

Wisniewski said the 12-member committee is using the forums to help the search firm Russell Reynolds Associates develop a job description, which will be posted on the search website.

Though the gathering held on Sept. 15 was the last of the public forums related to the dean search, Wisniewski urged Pitt community members to submit candidate nominations and to fill out the community survey to share desired characteristics for the new dean, who, at minimum, should be a tenured engineering professor. The survey also encourages sharing feedback and comments with the committee.

“Your job isn’t done here,” Wisniewski said to forum attendees.

The committee plans to select up to 14 candidates for brief initial interviews during the confidential phase of its work. Then, plans are to invite up to eight individuals to campus for lengthier interviews in January 2018, which may include a chance for members of the University community to hear from and meet the candidates.

By March, the committee plans to provide the Office of the Provost with three to six unranked top choices for a final selection. The University, said Wisniewski, aims for the new dean to be in Pittsburgh prior to his or her fall 2018 start.


Marty Levine,, 412-758-4859


Filed under: Feature,Volume 50 Issue 3

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