From the Dean: January to March

March

Our current YSU leadership challenge suggests the topic of this month’s column: how will this impact the STEM College. I would like to present my own take on this topic, but with the very important caveat that I have no more knowledge than anyone else about the true facts and underlying activity. What I know I have learned from careful reading in the public media, including many of the associated comments posted on the web.

First and foremost, I want to start with my general take on university administration, not just at YSU, but also in academia broadly (and throughout the business world, as well). And that is that the higher up in the administration a person is, the less important that person to the day-to-day success of the institution. On the other hand, people in the higher levels of the administration are focused on long-term goals and objectives, ensuring that the university will be viable and provide a quality education to students for many years to come.

The most important people to our students are the teaching faculty who show up to work with the students every day. When a professor fails to show up for class, that’s a major disruption. Also critically important are the advisors and the staff who work with the students. As we approach registration, those staff engage in helping students identify classes for next semester and get registered, they are critical to our students’ success.

As a Dean, I know that I have little impact on the daily success of our students. While I still manage to work with some groups of students, it’s not at the same level as the faculty, and it doesn’t impact their classroom success in the same way. I know that I still have influence on their success, but now peripherally and through other people. I work with the advisors and support their efforts to advance the needs of the students. I work with the faculty to modify curricula and identify programmatic opportunities. I help our professional practice staff identify potential employers and establish processes. So I know that I have an impact for our students, but not on a day-to-day basis.

I also know that I have many responsibilities that are more similar to those of the upper levels of the administration that have even less impact on our students. I spend a great deal of time working with our alumni, trying to understand their needs so that we can adjust curriculum and services. I work with potential donors to provide resources for our students. I interact with area companies who will hire our students and graduates. I speak for the college in the community, trying to align our objectives with those of the broader region. These are all important activities for the long-term health of the college and the university, but very little of this will impact our current students.

So what to make of the leadership challenges that currently exist? If you’re a student or a prospective student, it is irrelevant. The most important YSU people for the student population are the faculty and advisors that you deal with each and every day, and those folks aren’t changing or going anywhere just because we have a change in the president’s office. In fact, the only ones affected by this leadership challenge are folks like me, in the middle management levels, who regularly interact with university leaders, and now have to figure out how the playing field has changed for the short-term and beyond.

As long as we can navigate through this changing landscape, the college will continue to be successful. We will continue to advance our economic development initiatives, we will continue to support our alumni and friends, and we will continue to deliver the highest quality education to our students.

YSU will get through this short-term challenge, and if we do this right, come out of it stronger and more prepared for long-term success. I am optimistic about our future, because I know the strength of our students, our faculty, and our staff. Through the continued hard work of our faculty and staff, our students will continue to prosper. And through the success of our students, YSU will continue to have a key role in the future of the Mahoning Valley.

February

Some of you may have seen our recent press regarding our new Center for Innovation in Additive Manufacturing (CIAM). I thought I would take this month to provide a bit more context to our goals and objectives with this program, and how it has the potential to reshape the future of YSU.

Over the past year or so, we have invested in new equipment, faculty, and facilities to promote the growth of additive manufacturing in our community. Our overarching objective is to make YSU a national leader in educational resources for additive manufacturing. We aim to do that through three main initiatives:

  • Learn: CIAM provides a tiered educational network for learners at all levels, integrating hands-on additive manufacturing experiences, tours of plant facilities, seminars from prominent national and international speakers, and training and certification opportunities.
  • Support: CIAM assists and guides companies with required technical support, including concept evaluation, analysis of appropriate manufacturing technologies, internship and co-op students, and access to computer modeling and simulation software.
  • Do: CIAM performs complete design, production, testing, and analytical services, including CAD design and analysis, rapid prototyping, project based engineering services, and laboratory testing.

The first of these initiatives focuses on education, as would be expected for a University. But it’s education from a very broad perspective. In the short term, students will see more emphasis placed on principles of additive manufacturing in the curriculum. We are already developing elective courses that emphasize additive manufacturing, and incorporating concepts into our general engineering curriculum. As we become more engaged with regional and national organizations, we will be able to bring external experts for seminar programs. We will be expanding our co-op and internship opportunities. The Siemens contribution of CAD NX software will be integrated into our courses to give students the chance to design 3D parts, and we will be installing printers so that they can print these parts directly in the computer labs. In the long term, we’re considering adding a manufacturing engineering major, with an emphasis on additive manufacturing. President Dunn has talked about signature programs for YSU, and the STEM College is investing personnel and equipment resources into making sure that additive manufacturing becomes the first of those signature programs, with the ability to attract students from across the country. We intend to be the national leader for education in additive manufacturing.

The second initiative focuses on support for area businesses, in alignment with the President’s concept of YSU being a steward of its place. We will bring our faculty and student assets to bear to work with companies and help them to understand the opportunities that exist for additive manufacturing to make their products better and/or cheaper. We want our students to be developing innovative concepts that can solve real world problems using the extensive tools that we will be able to provide. Much of this is being done in collaboration with YBI, with whom we are partnering to create a network for area businesses in 3D printing. With funding from America Makes, we are now developing this capability for casting companies who wish to use 3D printing to help design molds. We are also finalizing a proposal to the Third Frontier to construct a full printing laboratory that not only has the capability to print a metal part, but also allows for the post-processing of that part, thereby achieving a workable design for our industry client. Hybrid manufacturing, as this combination of additive and traditional manufacturing processes is known, will provide area manufacturers the capability to rapidly produce metal parts that have the surface finish and precision that traditional processes offer. Once in place, we will develop a comparable industrial network for the hybrid manufacturing community.

The final portion of this initiative focuses on doing real work for our industrial partners. Once we have built the network, we need to bring our substantial resources to bear to solve their problem. Of course, that means having those resources, which is why we’re buying equipment. The two new ExOne printers unveiled in January represents a portion of that investment. The two printers being installed in the Moser Lobby represents another part of that investment. More equipment is required. We are working to obtain that equipment, and will be renovating space to provide the facilities wherein our equipment can be housed. Eventually, we anticipate a YSU investment in a new building to house the Center, one in which students, faculty, and company representatives can all come together around the equipment needed to do the work. Hopefully, we’ll get there soon, so that we can quickly establish our leadership position for the benefit of our community and our students.

The Center for Innovation in Additive Manufacturing is a broad-based initiative to expand YSU capabilities, including faculty, educational programs, equipment, and space, in order to establish our position as a leader for education and outreach in additive manufacturing technology.

January

A new year, so time to establish some goals that I would like to achieve in 2014 on behalf of the college.

We are clearly in need of new STEM facilities, and this is the year that I hope to get that project fully launched. We have done some preliminary work already. Even before the formation of the STEM College, a needs assessment recognized that Ward Beecher needed to be replaced. A few years ago we engaged a firm to complete further analysis, reviewing the need and identifying potential locations. We then put the general concept into a two-phase plan and determined a single location most likely to house new facilities. More recently, we have firmed up the idea as to a focus area for a new facility, identifying materials and manufacturing. This allows us to capitalize on our expertise in these emerging technology focus areas, and support the need for new science labs, particularly in Physics and Chemistry, both of which are directly engaged in these efforts.

Next is to complete the implementation of our new Siemens PLM software. We successfully installed the software into our computer labs and we’ve conducted several training sessions, but 2014 is the year in which it becomes fully integrated into our educational programs. Our new industrial engineering faculty, Guha Manogharan has already indicated his intention to use the software in his spring classes and we’re beginning the planning of more detailed training sessions. We’re getting this out to our students so that they can fully benefit from the generous contribution.

We would like to continue successful activities that we initiated over the past few years and see them expand and reach even new levels of success. Enrollment in the STEM College has been increasing, in part through the efforts of our faculty and staff. They work with prospective students on outreach events including MathCounts, Physics Olympics, Women in Science and Engineering, and many more that you can find listed on our STEM calendar; and they support Crash Day activities. Our co-op and internship programs have been expanding, and now with the completion of the office staff, we are properly set up to fully implement our state and federal funding and provide even higher numbers of student placements. Our research activities are continuing to grow and we are looking forward to bringing new awards in sciences, mathematics, and in engineering. With our partnerships with YBI, MVMC, and area businesses, we continue to have the opportunity to participate in joint economic development projects that lead to research and technology opportunities for faculty and students.

On the academic side, we implemented an online Master of Science in Engineering Management program that needs to be properly marketed and fully developed. We are looking to enhance our relationship with faculty in the business college to better integrate entrepreneurship and business into our undergraduate programs. We continue to refine our first-year engineering program and expand our relationship with OH Wow! The Co-Lab activities have led to the development of a joint course, titled Science by Design, that we are working to make generally available for our students and for College in High School students, which we also anticipate having approved as a general education offering. And we are working on a new biochemistry degree that we hope will promote greater enrollment and educational experiences for our students.

It is unlikely that we will get all of these goals accomplished over the course of 2014, just as it is likely that other opportunities will present themselves. But these are just a few of the efforts that we have underway, and a few of the examples of where the STEM College is headed as we look to this year, and beyond.