Reflections from the dean on another successful academic year

Sarah-Rajala-March2014One of the great satisfactions for college deans is seeing their students awarded diplomas on graduation day. The Iowa State commencement ceremonies on May 8 and 9 were as exciting for me as they were for our students and their families. Another group of future engineering leaders will move on to their successful careers or continue their path toward graduate degrees.

These celebrations also mark the official end to our current academic year. Now we turn our attention to summer classes, June orientation for incoming freshmen, planning for fall and all the ongoing work of managing our world-class college of engineering. This is always an opportune time for me to reflect on the past academic year.

Last fall began with another record enrollment of students – in fact, we were ranked the 8th largest undergraduate program in the country. With this ongoing growth of students, we also have been increasing our faculty size to continue our excellent academic standards. In addition to many new hires last year, we are nearing the end of our search for even more tenure/tenure track positions and lecturers.

Our research enterprise continues to diversify and expand, and we spent $82 million in research expenditures. One of my goals for next year is to continue growing our research programs by looking for more large-scale projects.

We experienced a lot of excitement with new or renovated facility projects – and one unexpected event with the fire at Sweeney Hall. Thank goodness nobody was hurt, and after massive clean up efforts and purchasing of new equipment, the building is functioning again. On a happier note, we dedicated Elings Hall, Sukup Hall and Sukup Atrium – the new home for agricultural and Biosystems engineering. And of course the Marston Hall renovation project continues as construction moves into its second year. We hope to move back into this grand building by early summer 2016.

Donors to our college have once again been very generous with current and deferred gift commitments of $28.5 million so far this fiscal year. We anticipate a $60 million fundraising effort over the past two years – a record for engineering! These private funds support scholarships, fellowships, named faculty positions, building renovations, new facilities and college programs.

And finally, the achievements of our students continue to shine. From being named the Wallace E. Barron All-University Senior or a Goldwater Scholar… to traveling to Tennessee for a poverty relief construction project or discovering emerging sustainability opportunities in Nicaragua… to using 3D printing technology and more to conduct structural engineering research or being selected for NSF graduate research fellowships… our students are amazing! You can always read lots of great news about our students and faculty on our college website.

Thank you to everyone associated with our college who helped make this past academic year a tremendous success! As always, I appreciate hearing from you and look forward to your comments.