Feniosky Peña-Mora, associate provost of the University of Illinois, has been appointed the next dean of the School of Engineering and Applied Science, according to a university-wide e-mail sent by President Lee Bollinger on Wednesday afternoon.
Peña-Mora, who grew up in the Dominican Republic, has been the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s Edward William and Jane Marr Gutgsell Endowed Professor in the civil and environmental engineering department for six years. As the school’s associate provost, he has overseen institutional programming and is also an affiliate at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications. Peña-Mora earned his masters and doctorate in civil engineering from MIT, where he taught information technology and project management in civil and environmental engineering.
Peña-Mora will begin his tenure on July 15, and will succeed current interim dean Gerald Navratil. The search for a new dean at SEAS has spanned the past two years, following previous dean Zvi Galil’s spring 2007 announcement that he would be leaving Columbia to become president of Tel Aviv University. Peña-Mora will arrive at Columbia during a time of great administrative flux, and will join the newly minted Columbia College dean Michele Moody-Adams. The climate is changing within SEAS as well, since the school recently saw a surge in applicants.
“I was so impressed with the energy and enthusiasm I saw among the faculty, students, staff, and alumni/ae at the school,” Peña-Mora said in a University announcement.
He continued, “It was clear to me that the SEAS leadership at Columbia has built a very strong foundation in recent years, well positioning the school to move to the next level in terms of its impact on the University, the local community, the nation, and the world. Many important innovations have taken place at SEAS over its long history and continue to take place today. It is exhilarating for me to see how committed Columbia’s students, faculty, staff, alumni/ae, and University leadership are to an even more exciting future.”
The announcement comes after a longer-than-usual search process. At the end of spring 2008, Spectator learned that the University had lined up several finalists. But during the fall, according to Bollinger, the search committee—which was led by provost Alan Brinkley and included students, faculty, and administrators—began anew.
“Columbia is fortunate to welcome such a remarkable new engineering dean at a time when the school is becoming ever more central to the University’s mission—from its interdisciplinary work with our medical center in the life sciences and our Earth Institute in climate science to its pioneering service-learning curriculum that is a national model for civic engagement between university and community,” Bollinger said in the release. “He will be an outstanding leader for our School of Engineering and Applied Science.”
Peña-Mora has researched strategies for infrastructure disaster recovery and the non-technical aspects of civil engineering and construction management.
He holds the 1999 National Science Foundation CAREER Award and the White House Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers. Peña-Mora has also won several other prizes, including the Walter L. Huber Civil Engineering Research Prize of the American Society of Civil Engineers.