Zhang named dean of WCU’s Kimmel School of Construction Management and Technology

James Zhang

James Zhang

James Zhang, who has been serving as interim dean of Western Carolina University’s Kimmel School of Construction Management and Technology since Aug. 1, 2011, soon will be an interim dean no more.

WCU Provost Angi Brenton announced Monday, Oct. 8, that Zhang will become permanent dean of the Kimmel School this fall, pending approval of the appointment by the WCU Board of Trustees and the University of North Carolina Board of Governors in November.

Under Zhang’s leadership, WCU’s Kimmel School won approval in February from the Board of Governors to offer the bachelor of science degree in engineering, a strategic step in the university’s efforts to help meet the needs of Western North Carolina business and industry. The new stand-alone BSE program, which began this fall, developed from a bachelor of science degree in electrical engineering (the BSEE) that WCU had offered jointly with UNC Charlotte since 2004.

“James Zhang is not only a respected leader on all parts of the WCU campus, but also is a rising leader nationally in the field of engineering education with the project-based educational model he has championed,” Brenton said. “The approval of the BSE degree, rising enrollments in engineering and construction management, the integration of studies in engineering and engineering technology, and the recruitment of excellent faculty are all a credit to James’s leadership.”

Associate dean of the Kimmel School since 2008, Zhang permanently fills a vacancy created by the departure of former dean Robert McMahan, who was named president of Kettering University in Flint, Mich., last year.

Zhang joined the WCU faculty in 2003 with more than 10 years of industry experience in electrical engineering research, development and management. From 2009 to 2010, he also served as interim head of the Department of Construction Management.

Zhang holds a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering, master’s degrees in telecommunications and electrical engineering and a doctorate in electrical engineering.  During his tenure at WCU, he has generated more than 50 publications. He also holds seven U.S. and international patents.

The Kimmel School is home to the Department of Construction Management, Department of Engineering and Technology, and Center for Rapid Product Realization. The “engagement arm” of the Kimmel School, the Rapid Center provides technical assistance to companies, organizations and entrepreneurs through faculty expertise and hands-on learning activities for students.

“We are not the only university who sought James as a leader, and we are extremely fortunate that he has chosen WCU,” Brenton said. “I am confident that he will lead the Kimmel School and the Center for Rapid Product Realization to even greater achievements in the future.”

The Kimmel School dean is one of several top leadership position vacancies on the to-do list for Brenton, who became WCU provost Aug. 1. Interim leaders also are serving as deans for the College of Arts and Sciences, College of Education and Allied Professions, College of Health and Human Sciences, Graduate School and Research, and Division of Educational Outreach, as well as filling the role of associate provost.

Brenton recently announced a search committee to help find the next permanent dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, with the committee holding its first meeting Oct. 9.

The search committee is chaired by Sean O’Connell of the Department of Biology. Committee members from within the college are Julie Barnes (Mathematics and Computer Science), Chris Cooper (Political Science and Public Affairs), Andrew Denton (History), Betty Farmer (Communication), Brian Gastle (English), Carrie Hockman (College of Arts and Sciences) and Arthur Salido (Chemistry and Physics). Committee members from outside the college are Dale Carpenter (interim dean of the College of Education and Allied Professions) and Jamie Vaske (Criminology and Criminal Justice).

Brenton also has appointed a committee to search for the next dean of the College of Health and Human Sciences. The committee will be chaired by Zhang of the Kimmel School. Members include Billy Ogletree (Communication Science and Disorders), Lisa Lefler (Center for Native Health), Peg Connolly (Health Sciences), Judy Leroy Robinson (Social Work), Shawn Collins (Nursing) and Jessica Graning (Physical Therapy). Administrative support will be provided by Anne Aldrich in the Office of the Provost. Additional external members of the committee will be determined by the search committee.

For more information about the Kimmel School, call 828-227-7367 or visit the website kimmel.wcu.edu.