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New Deanships Reaffirm Commitment to Education

This summer, Provost and Senior Vice President Carol Simpson announced two senior administrative appointments that reflect the important role of undergraduate education at WPI.

John Orr, electrical and computer engineering professor and former department head, was named dean of undergraduate studies, and Richard Vaz ’79, ECE associate professor and associate dean of Interdisciplinary and Global Studies (IGSD), was named dean of IGSD.

“These appointments reaffirm that undergraduate education is at the heart of our mission,” Simpson says.

The dean of undergraduate studies position was recreated after an 11-year hiatus. (Bill Grogan ’46, professor emeritus of electrical engineering, served as the first such dean from 1970 until his retirement in 1990. Frank Lutz succeeded Grogan until his resignation in 1995.)

The IGSD deanship became open this year after Paul Davis stepped down from the position to begin a sabbatical leave with the U.S. State Department (see story, page 8). “We are renewing our belief that the traditional values and emphasis of WPI’s undergraduate education remain as vital as ever,” Simpson says.

Both Orr and Vaz bring many years of experience to their respective new roles. Orr joined the WPI faculty in 1977 as an assistant professor of electrical engineering, after earning his PhD in electrical engineering from the University of Illinois, Urbana. He became associate professor in 1981, and full professor in 1986. He also served as ECE department head from 1988 to 2003. In his new role, Orr will be involved in a variety of initiatives, including new developments to enrich the freshman- and sophomore-year experiences.

Vaz arrived on campus in 1975 as an undergraduate; he earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at WPI, as well as his PhD. In 1983, he became an instructor and rose to the rank of associate professor of ECE, a title he has held since 1994. For the past eight years, he has also served as associate dean of IGSD. As dean, Vaz will continue to enhance and support WPI’s interdisciplinary and global education.

This summer, Transformations spoke with the two colleagues about their vision for undergraduate education in a changing world.

John Orr's Interview

Richard Vaz's Interview
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Last modified: Sep 27, 2006, 15:14 EDT
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