Dean of Engineering

By The Beacon | October 27, 2010 9:00pm

After 15 years as dean of the School of Engineering, Zia Yamayee will make the shift from dean to professor at the end of the academic year.

Zia Yamayee will step down as the Dean of Engineering after 15 years to continue pursuing his passion for teaching here at the University of Portland. (Bryan Brenize -- The Beacon)

By Luke Riela, Staff Writer --

After 15 years as dean of the School of Engineering, Zia Yamayee has made the decision to step down at the end of this academic year.

According to Yamayee, when he officially steps down on June 30, UP President Fr. Bill Beauchamp, C.S.C., will appoint a search committee to find a replacement. Ideally, a new dean of engineering will be appointed by Aug. 30, 2011.

Even though Yamayee will have completed his third five-year term as dean, he's not ready to leave the University of Portland yet.

"I plan to work here as long as I can," Yamayee said. "University of Portland is my last stop."

He says that he expects to stay at UP as a full-time professor for another eight to 10 years before retiring.

One of the reasons behind the decision to give up his position as dean was Yamayee has completed much of what he set out to do.

According to Yamayee, from the beginning he wanted to increase the amount of both undergraduates and professors within the School of Engineering, as well as improve the facility.

"We accomplished much of the goals we set in the late 90s," Yamayee remarked.

Another reason is that he seeks a better connection with the students. Currently, he teaches only one class each year.

"I don't get to interact with students as much as I would like," Yamayee said.

Yamayee also said he simply feels ready to move on. "It is time to go back to the faculty," he said.

He says that such preparation is necessary considering how long it has been. Associate Engineering Professor Mehmet Inan noted Yamayee's kindness and good nature.

"He is a wonderful man, and he listens to the faculty," Inan said. "I was very happy to see him leading the school the last 15 years."

Yamayee plans to take a year-long sabbatical before making the transition. "I will be trying to retool myself," Yamayee said. "It will be 23 years since I've been a full-time teacher."

Before coming to UP, Yamayee worked as the dean of the School of Engineering at Gonzaga University from 1988 to 1996.

According to Yamayee, the two universities are quite similar because "they both provide a well-rounded education."

Preceding his position as dean at Gonzaga, he was a part of the engineering programs at Clarkson University (1983-1985) and the University of New Orleans (1987-1988).

When he was offered the job at UP, he didn't know much about the university.

"The more I found out about it, the more I liked it," Yamayee said.

What was most appealing to him was that the university prioritized education above research.

"I intentionally came here because of the focus on undergraduate education," Yamayee said.

Yamayee says he knew good professors from universities that supposedly put education first, but ended up firing the professors for lack of research. He quickly found that UP was not like those universities when he became dean in 1996.

"My first goal was to get the facility upgraded," Yamayee said.

With the donation of $12 million from Donald P. and Darlene Shiley, Yamayee's vision of having a facility to house the engineering programs was made a reality.

"Sometimes walking through the hallways I have to pinch myself to make sure this is real," Yamayee said of Shiley Hall.

Yamayee also set to work creating more complete engineering programs and building a larger faculty. He cut the amount of engineering degree programs from eight to five, and increased the number of professors from 17 to 21.

The amount of undergraduates enrolled in the School of Engineering has also increased from 295 in 1996 to over 550 this year.

"With his leadership, we have more than (met) our goal of undergraduates by over 25 percent" Dr. Mehmet Inan, an associate professor in the Engineering program, said.

In addition, he helped move Computer Science into the engineering program in 1999.

"Zia was very instrumental in guiding the Computer Science program," Steve Vegdahl, an associate professor in the computer science program, said.

With Yamayee's assistance, the Computer Science program was able to achieve accreditation from the Accreditation Board of Engineering and Technology.

"He worked hard, worked with us, and we got the job done," Vegdahl said.