Engineering dean chosen as next UI provost

Engineering dean chosen as next UI provost

By JULIE WURTH

jwurth@news-gazette.com

CHAMPAIGN — College of Engineering Dean Andreas Cangellaris will be the next provost of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the first person to hold the job on a permanent basis in more than two years.

Chancellor Robert Jones announced the selection today, choosing Cangellaris over three outside candidates for the top academic post on campus.

Cangellaris will start his new job Jan. 16, pending approval by UI trustees on Thursday. He will earn $502,500 annually.

Jones, chancellor for just over a year, said Cangellaris’ deep knowledge of the campus and international reputation as an academic leader, teacher and researcher were factors “no one else could match.” Cangellaris, who joined the UI engineering faculty in 1997 and has been dean since 2013, was widely seen as the favorite.

“We had four highly qualified candidates, and all of them had skills that would be useful at the university,” Jones told The News-Gazette this morning. “When you consider all the assets Dean Cangellaris brought to the table ... he was the logical choice, as far as I’m concerned.

“I’ve had the chance to work with him over the last 14 months. I understand his vision, I understand how he is not only a champion for the College of Engineering but has tremendous respect across the whole university,” Jones said.

Cangellaris said this morning he is honored and thrilled to take the appointment.

“I love this institution. I’m very excited to have this opportunity to be in charge of all academic affairs on this campus and leading us forward to bigger and better things,” he said. “The potential is tremendous, the promise is great. I think overall, the campus is ready to take a leadership role in public higher education in the 21st century, and to have the opportunity to be in a leadership position at that level is an honor.”

Jones said Cangellaris played a key role in several major initiatives on campus. He was among the core group of faculty and administrators who developed the vision for the new Carle Illinois College of Medicine and helped lay the groundwork and secure the donation for the Siebel Center for Design, which will break ground next spring. Cangellaris has been instrumental in developing new research and educational partnerships from Chicago to Singapore and China, including one announced recently with the University of Chicago, Jones said. As a provost fellow, he also led efforts to revise campus promotion and tenure processes.

Cangellaris has served in his current role since 2013, administering a college with more than 7,500 undergraduate and 3,000 graduate students and an annual budget of $265 million. During his tenure as dean, the number of women and traditionally underrepresented undergraduate students increased by more than 55 percent. At his public interview for the job, Cangellaris laid out an ambitious vision for the campus, saying he wants to ensure that the 21st century “has Illinois written all over it.” In his statement today, he said, “When Illinois rises, the world advances.”

“It’s about time for us to keep reminding the world how good we are and making sure that we stand up to the responsibilities that go along with that quality and excellence,” he said.

First on his agenda are enacting a budget reform process in the works for more than a year, one tied more closely to campus goals, and completing a new strategic plan launched by Jones.

He said a new data sciences institute outlined by Jones offers huge potential as “a driver of innovation” and economic growth for the state.

He will also push for more partnerships with other Illinois universities and private industry, which he said will be critical in coming decades.

“Never before has the private sector depended on higher education the way they do today,” he said.

Together, the state’s universities can assume a leadership role for the state, as well as nationally and globally, he said.

“United, they’re much stronger and more effective,” he said.

Cangellaris said he loves the spirit of collaboration and community he found on campus and plans to stay at the UI “forever.”

“This is a very special ingredient at the University of Illinois,” especially when it comes to research, he said. He hopes to apply that to education as well.

“The only thing the world does not need in the 21st century is rigid boundaries when it comes to how students are educated,” he said.

Jones and Cangellaris paid tribute to the current interim provost, John Wilkin, and his predecessor, former interim Ed Feser, who was appointed in 2015 but left for a new job last February. Both had “amazing” talent and kept the campus moving forward during some challenging times, they said.

“Fortunately, we have such deep bench strength at the university,” Jones said. “Neither of them have been wallflowers or managed around the edges.

“I don’t think we lost any step when we brought John Wilkin in as the second interim,” Jones added.

A native of Greece, Cangellaris earned a Ph.D. in electrical engineering from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1985. He received his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering degree at Aristotle University in Thessaloniki, Greece.

Before joining the UI faculty, he was an associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Arizona.

He previously served as head of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. He continues to hold the position of M.E. Van Valkenburg Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

His research has focused on applied and computational electromagnetics; multidomain physics modeling; and system-level electromagnetic compatibility. He has authored or co-written more than 280 publications and led the development of several prototype tools for computer-aided analysis and design of RF, microwave and high-speed digital electronic systems.

The other finalists for the position were Sonny Ramaswamy, director of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture at the U.S. Department of Agriculture; Chaden Djalali, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at the University of Iowa; and Joan Ferrini-Mundy, chief operating officer for the National Science Foundation.

The finalists made public presentations to the campus in September and October.

Jones said an interim dean of the College of Engineering will be named in coming weeks.

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