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Civil, Environmental and Architectural Engineering Department Selects New Chair

Thursday, 6 June 2013 12:04 CDT

A man with nearly 40 years of research and teaching experience at the University of Kansas School of Engineering will soon assume a new role.

Dave Darwin, Deane E. Ackers Distinguished Professor of civil, environmental and architectural engineering, took over as chair of the department June 1.

He sees his role as helping a strong department reach greater heights.

“The question that a good chair should ask is, ‘What do you need to be successful?’ I should be asking that of professors and students,” Darwin said. “The ideas and the energy come from those groups. The chair works to provide resources and help them however they can.”

Darwin earned his undergraduate degree in civil engineering and master’s degree in structural engineering from Cornell University in 1967 and 1968, respectively. He earned his doctorate in civil engineering from the University of Illinois in 1974 and joined the faculty at KU that same year. He has a long and distinguished career as a leader in concrete and steel research, with a focus on lengthening the longevity and increasing safety of bridges.

In addition to his commitment to help faculty members and students succeed, Darwin has identified four themes that he says are key to ensuring the department continues to thrive — recruitment, retention, resources and recognition.

“We need to make sure we’re bringing in quality students, and we’re focused on keeping them enrolled through their freshman and sophomore years,” Darwin said.  “It’s important to get the resources that help faculty increase their research funding and productivity. The recognition component is very broad, and it includes recognizing that there are a lot of good ideas out there.  We have smart professors and smart students, and we need to recognize all those good ideas and be prepared to act on them as they come up.”

Darwin also will guide the department through a period of growth at the School of Engineering. The school’s newest building, Learned Engineering Expansion Phase 2 (LEEP2), is set to add more than 130,000 square feet of classroom, research and student collaboration space by the fall of 2015. It will accommodate an influx of additional students and faculty.

“The ongoing expectation is that KU will continue to be a great research university,” Darwin said. “This department has a tremendous background and experience in doing that, and new faculty we’ll bring in are bound to add to our research capabilities.”

Darwin replaces Professor Tom Mulinazzi, who served as interim department chair for the 2012-2013 academic year.

Darwin has a long career of service to the American Concrete Institute, including a term as president in 2007-2008. He’s also a registered professional engineer in Kansas, a Distinguished Member of the American Society of Civil Engineers, and in 2012 was selected as an inaugural Fellow in the Structural Engineering Institute.