Terpenny off to a great start

terpenny-janisThe new chair of the Department of Industrial and Manufacturing Systems Engineering (IMSE) Janis Terpenny has only been on campus for about a month, but she has already set down the foundation to advance the IMSE department. Launching into her new position with valuable experience and knowledge, she has focused her leadership on reaching departmental goals through collaborative efforts.

Terpenny began preparing for her role in IMSE long before she arrived at Iowa State on August 16. “While assembling my application for the position, I began to look more closely at the department,” she explains. “What I found were great strengths in particular areas, such as wind energy and advanced manufacturing.”

Once selected as chair, Terpenny then began a serious assessment of the department’s available resources and started formulating ideas for what else the department would need to stand out as a leader. During this process, she noticed each faculty member was very involved, managing a variety of projects and continuing to teach courses. While impressed by their work ethic, she came to the conclusion that the department’s efforts could be enhanced with additional faculty,.

She also spent a significant amount learning about college-level initiatives from Jonathan Wickert, dean of the College of Engineering. “Through my conversations with Dean Wickert, I discovered his expectations of increased research productivity, greater enrollment, and collaboration with other departments and colleges,” says Terpenny. “He is also a very big proponent of interdisciplinary endeavors across campus, something I find to be really valuable and exciting myself.”

When she arrived on campus just a week before classes started, Terpenny’s acclimation to the department truly began during a retreat on her first day. She learned a lot about her colleagues, as department members presented slides about their personal and professional lives, along with activities and research they want to work on but that they have been unable to get off the ground because of other commitments.

“Following the retreat, I began meeting one on one with all the faculty and staff members to further explore what each is doing individually, what their passions are, where they see possible opportunities, and what they see as resources and roadblocks associated with those opportunities,” Terpenny says.

At the beginning of September, she led her first IMSE faculty meeting. Preceding the meeting, she asked each member to think about what initiatives would be most beneficial to the department. During the meeting, they each then had the opportunity to present any suggestions while Terpenny led them through constructive brainstorming activities to begin carving out the next direction of the department.

She also used the time to discuss with the group which research areas were in need of additional faculty. Terpenny was anxious to see how current members would address the issue. “One of the first things I expected was for each of the faculty to make a case as to why their area needed the new faculty, but surprisingly that did not happen,” she explains. “Everyone agreed that we should have a search across all of the areas and hire the best people out of the applicant pool.”

Looking ahead, Terpenny has begun to set goals to further the education and research taking place in the department. First on her list is establishing a connection at Iowa State with the Center for e-Design.

The center is a National Science Foundation Industry/University Cooperative Research Center that consists of six universities along with three more joining soon, including Iowa State, collaborating on the shared goal “to create new design paradigms and electronic design tools that will assist in generating high quality products and systems at a reduced cost while also reducing the time associated with designing complex engineered products and systems.”

By the end of September, Terpenny will submit a proposal to initiate the first step of adding Iowa State to the center. “Bringing the Center for e-Design to Iowa State is one way to accomplish an increase in research productivity for the department along with improving the quality of experience for IMSE students,” says Terpenny. “Through this partnership, I would like to see strong collaboration with other departments and schools where we come up with leading edge national endeavors.”

She also hopes to bring her experience with engineering design to IMSE with unique educational opportunities for students in IMSE as well as in the College of Engineering. “I would like to look at the possibility of new multidisciplinary minors, certificates, or degree programs that relate to the design and realization of products and systems,” she says.

Aware that such goals are longer term, she emphasized that her immediate attention will be focused on continuing to get to know faculty and recruiting new hires for the IMSE department.