New engineering dean is a first

By The Beacon | August 31, 2011 9:00pm


Sharon Jones, the new engineering dean, plans to increase female enrollment and expand engineering students’ opportunities

Kayla Wong | THE BEACON Sharon Jones, the new dean of the Shiley School of Engineering, is the first female dean of engineering in the history of UP. Jones, who is from Trinidad, was the first in her family to attend college at the age of 16. (Kayla Wong -- The Beacon)

By Lesley Dawson Staff Writer

Over the summer, Sharon Jones became the first female dean of the Shiley School of Engineering in UP history.

Born in the Caribbean island of Trinidad, Jones was the first in her family to attend college at the age of 16. She completed her undergraduate studies in civil engineering at Columbia University in 1986.

She received a master's degree in civil engineering from the University of Florida, a Master in Public Administration from California State University at Long Beach and earned her doctorate from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. Most recently, Jones was a faculty member at Lafeyette College in Pennsylvania.

"I just like going to school," Jones said.

Jones cited multiple reasons for coming to UP: the educational programs already in place, the focus on graduate education and her family's desire to live in the Pacific Northwest.

"The school has an excellent foundation on which we can enhance the (engineering) program for the 21st century," Jones said.

As dean, Jones plans to increase the number of female students in the engineering department, place engineering graduates at the forefront of the engineering world and strengthen the master's program.

She plans to increase the number of female engineers by encouraging admitted female students to pursue engineering through personal contact with the other UP female faculty.

"We want to reach out to the new female students," Jones said.

Senior civil engineering student Jenny Doyle is supportive of Jones' goals.

"I've only encountered probably two female professors ever (in the engineering school)," Doyle said. "It will be nice to finally have some more females in engineering."

Jones plans to put engineering graduates at the forefront of the engineering market by helping students get involved with internships, senior capstones and service projects. Jones believes that building upon the programs and curriculum already in place will create opportunities for students in and out of the classroom.

In order to do this, Jones wants to get engineering school alumni involved with students' professional development.

"They want to know what's going on," Jones said. "They care."

Jones also plans to create a "suite of options" for engineering students interested in studying abroad to help students gain skills Jones believes they will need for future employment.

Jones said in a previous position that engineering students became accustomed to an artificial environment that included only engineering majors.

"Engineering students will have to learn how to work with people who aren't engineers," Jones said.

Jones also wants to expand the master's program so students are encouraged to stay at UP to complete their graduate degrees rather than going to other universities.

"My personal feeling is that there is so much to learn as an engineer," Jones said. "It's hard to fit it all into the undergraduate education."

The faculty still needs to design the framework for the master's program, according to Jones.

By creating a solid base formed by her many goals, Jones ultimately has a "big vision" for the future of UP's engineering school.

"I want the University of Portland to automatically produce the engineers of the 21st century," Jones said.

She wants to foster the reputation that UP consistently graduates quality engineers.

"(This) will help develop them into the best engineers they can be," Jones said.

However, Jones understands this won't happen overnight.

"Our engineering school is a little bit of a secret," Jones said. "We just want to make sure it's not a secret anymore."