College of Engineering News • Iowa State University

Reflections on serving as interim dean

Mufit Akinc

On July 30 of last year, I was named interim dean of the College of Engineering. It was a time of leadership transition, and I was honored to serve in this capacity. Jonathan Wickert left the college in great shape when he became senior vice president and provost of the university. The last eight months have been an experience I will never forget. We were able to build on the many successes that preceded me, and I look forward to helping our new dean – Sarah Rajala – continue moving our college forward.

I wanted to take a moment to reflect on my time in the dean’s office and also thank everyone for helping to achieve a smooth transition. It was truly a team effort, and I enjoyed working with so many talented people. Since my arrival at Iowa State as an assistant professor in 1981, I have witnessed first hand the outstanding growth in strength and reputation of the College of Engineering. With Dean Rajala’s arrival on April 1, I believe we have firmly planted our footprint on the world for many more years to come.

In the past 30+ years, I have watched the college grow to a record enrollment of about 7,500 talented students and some 230 dedicated faculty members with outstanding academic and research credentials. Our strength in alumni involvement and generous donors provides a strong foundation to our rich tradition of service to the community – locally and globally – and our dedication to educating tomorrow’s engineers.

Serving as interim dean gave me the opportunity to see things a bit differently. Some of my favorite observations include….

  • Witnessing our own solar car team capture second place in a national race, finishing only behind the University of Michigan which had a 10-fold budget and mentoring from the big three auto-makers.
  • Reading promotion dossiers and award nomination packages gave me a sense of appreciation for the exceptional dedication and hard work our faculty and staff performs every day.
  • The talent, dedication, and collaborative team spirit we have in the college’s administration office. The staff is a truly outstanding group of people that I will eternally be grateful to for their cooperation, assistance, and yes, their guidance. I am very proud and honored to be part of this group.
  • Probably the greatest experience in this short-term assignment has been the opportunity to reconnect with good alumni friends and meet new ones around the country. The most astonishing aspect of my interactions was that as successful and prominent as these donors are in their respective professions – they are also humble, down-to-earth, friendly, and most of all, committed to the future of our college and university. I was a bit hesitant calling these very busy people, and I would start my conversation saying, “Is this this a good time to chat?” Nobody turned my down – in fact, one person responded, “When the topic is ISU and the engineering college, it is always a good time.” That was such a nice gesture, and it made me feel so proud to be an alum myself. In another visit, we talked about new faculty hires and start-up packages. The alumus friend started talking like “let us see how we can meet this need, let us figure out a plan,” clearly owning the challenges as a collective responsibility. Through these visits and conversations, I believe I made a few more life-long friends.

Next on my to-do list: I will be helping Dean Rajala move into her new role and assisting as we shift duties. I also look forward to returning to my research and working with my graduate students who deserve more attention than they got last year, teaching, and overseeing the international programs. The ISU College of Engineering is a great place to be – and the future is nothing but bright! Thank you again for all of the support you have given to me.