The University of Wisconsin’s College of Engineering released their choice for its new dean yesterday in response to Paul Peercy’s retirement announcement last February.

According to a UW statement, Ian Robertson, an engineering professor at the University of Illinois and director of the National Science Foundation’s Division of Materials Research, will be replacing Peercy March 1.

UW Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Paul DeLuca said Robertson contains many qualities that make him the best suited candidate for this position. According to DeLuca, one of Robertson’s biggest assets is the fact that he has a strong primary focus on academics in addition to leadership experience.

“In our institution, the first and singularly most important thing is scholarship,” DeLuca said. “He’s a world-recognized scientist with extraordinary accomplishments. Secondly, he has leadership roles. He’s had leadership activity at Illinois, and of course, he just spent two years at the National Science Foundation in a leadership position.”

Robertson’s amazing leadership qualities, as well as his educational experience, were major factors in the choice to make him the next dean of engineering, according to James Rawlings, professor of chemical and biological engineering and
chair of the search and screen committee for the new dean, in an email to The Badger Herald.

According to DeLuca, Robertson is going to be instrumental in expanding UW’s engineering program on campus and will ultimately focus on improving the undergraduate curriculum.

“There’s a tremendous need for engineers, and the pressure to grow the school is really quite excellent,” DeLuca said. “I suspect that [Robertson] will reinforce the structure and research agenda inside the school, and he’ll work very hard at the undergraduate curriculum.”

DeLuca said students currently enrolled in their departments in the College of Engineering do not need to worry about changes affecting them. However, there will be some changes made to help the students who have yet to enroll, he said.

“Ideally, the important part of [the changes to be made] is that we will be able to transition students into engineering at earlier stages,” DeLuca said. “Instead of pre-engineering, they’ll be able to access engineering more completely and earlier in their careers, so that they can get started and begin to make progress in a more facile manner.”

According to DeLuca, there is hope that in the future, engineering students will have an easier time applying for their departments, and they should be able to do so sooner.

Additionally, DeLuca said Robertson had a lot of modernization to offer to UW, noting 2012 at the school is the Year of Innovation.

“I think that innovation is going to come from modern curriculum, with recognition that engineering is no longer completely box-able into individual disciplines,” DeLuca said. “There is plenty of activity available at the boundaries between disciplines. Also, these boundaries don’t just include engineering. Engineering is reaching into the business school, and many of the other UW schools. We’ll be able to be extraordinarily innovative.”