Last month, the Youngstown State University College of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics welcomed Dr. Wim Steelant as its new dean. As he takes the time to get to know YSU; STEM; and all of the faculty, staff and students here, this is our chance to learn a little bit about him.
Born and raised in Belgium, Dr. Steelant earned his bachelor’s degree in chemistry. He didn’t really know what he wanted to do until several different opportunities presented themselves throughout his educational and professional careers.
“What changed my life was an internship. That’s why it’s so important to have this hands-on and internship experience, because it really changed my life,” said Dr. Steelant.
He found connections between the textbooks and the real-life implications at his internship and continued his studies into graduate school, where he earned his master’s degree in chemical engineering.
When the opportunity arose for Dr. Steelant to pursue his PhD, he used that chance to study independently, work on research, and publish several papers. He actually worked with three different schools in three different countries (France, Belgium, and the Netherlands) to earn his eventual PhD in biology.
“I never had a desk,” he said. “The desk was the bench on the train; I was travelling too much.”
After spending time learning all over Europe, Dr. Steelant made his way to the United States, which was never in his plans. Searching for postdoctoral research, he found an opportunity at the University of Washington and has been in the U.S. ever since.
From his research in Washington, Dr. Steelant moved on to New Mexico Tech, where he became the chemistry department’s chairperson in addition to developing programs and facilities there. After accomplishing his goals in New Mexico, he took the next logical step: he became a dean at St. Thomas University in Florida.
Now that Dr. Steelant is the Dean of STEM at YSU, he’s ready to begin listening to feedback and reacting to it by making changes and improvements.
“What are my plans here? It’s very simple,” said Dr. Steelant. “The first thing I’ve done so far is listen—listening to my chairs, to their hopes, dreams, frustrations; I’m listening to the faculty; and I’m listening to the students on what’s going on and I have an earful.”
He wants to stress that students are welcome to stop in and talk to him without making an appointment. If his door is open and the light is on, he’s either in the office or very nearby. Another good way to contact him is through the Ask the Dean page on the YSU STEM website.
Dr. Steelant’s advice to students, alumni, and faculty alike is to take chances and seize opportunities before it’s too late.
“I see life as a coloring book,” he said. “Every page in that book is one year of your life. When you die, you’re going to take your book and you’re going to look at it—if you didn’t color very many of the pages, your life was pretty dull. If you have to put on sunglasses just to look at it, that’s living life to the fullest.”