Ray to lead WCU’s Kimmel School

Jeffrey L. Ray, dean of the School of Engineering Technology and Management at Southern Polytechnic State University in Marietta, Georgia, will be the next dean of the Kimmel School of Construction Management and Technology at Western Carolina University.

Jeffrey L. Ray

Jeffrey L. Ray

Ray, dean and professor of mechanical engineering technology at SPSU since 2007, is filling a vacancy created by the recent departure of James Zhang, who accepted the position of provost at Kettering University in Flint, Michigan, after leading the Kimmel School since October 2012.

The appointment of Ray, effective Aug. 1, was announced Monday, July 7, by Alison Morrison-Shetlar, provost at WCU, following approval by the executive committee of the WCU Board of Trustees. Ray also will join the Department of Engineering and Technology as a tenured professor.

“Dr. Ray brings a wealth of experience in engineering education, working with industry and in developing engaged learning opportunities for students and faculty,” Morrison-Shetlar said. “His ability to work with many different types of business and industry, his reputation and leadership positions in his professional organizations and his interdisciplinary collaborations are all attributes that will bring recognition to the Kimmel School, building on the very strong foundation that James Zhang and the faculty and staff of the Kimmel School have developed.”

During his tenure as dean at SPSU, Ray helped develop his school’s first strategic plan, coordinated three major accreditation processes, and acquired funding for more than $2.5 million in new and replacement equipment. He also created and developed two new undergraduate programs and one new graduate program that have been approved by the Georgia Board of Regents.

Ray said he was drawn to the Kimmel School position in part because of the school’s emphasis on project-based learning, in which students not only study theoretical aspects about engineering and technology, but also apply those theories in hands-on projects designed to help solve real problems faced by industry partners across Western North Carolina, under the oversight of faculty mentors.

“Further developing applied, industry- and government-sponsored research projects for undergraduate and graduate students is a high priority for applied science and engineering, technology and construction management, including entrepreneurial opportunities,” he said. “Promoting experiential and project-based learning for students is critical in meeting the needs of students and employers.”

Prior to joining SPSU, Ray served as director and professor in the School of Engineering at Grand Valley State University from 2004 until 2007, and as associate professor and chair of the mechanical engineering program there from 1997 until 2004. He also previously was an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at Youngstown State University and a biomedical research engineer at Vanderbilt University.

Ray is a member of the American Society for Engineering Education, serving as chair of the organization’s engineering technology council and vice president of its institutional councils. He earned his doctorate in mechanical engineering at Vanderbilt University and his master’s and bachelor’s degrees in mechanical engineering at Tennessee Technological University.

Southern Polytechnic State University, founded 65 years ago with a focus on science, engineering and technology, is merging with Kennesaw State University this fall to create an institution with a combined enrollment of more than 31,000 students.

George DeSain, former head of WCU’s industrial education and technology department who led the transformation of the industrial arts program into industrial technology and then into engineering technology, has been serving as acting dean of the Kimmel School since Zhang’s departure in May.

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.

The Kimmel School is expanding its Cullowhee-based undergraduate engineering program to WCU’s instructional site at Biltmore Park beginning this fall, a step designed to help meet increasing industry and business demand for a highly qualified workforce in the fast-growing corridor between Asheville and Hendersonville.

WCU will host an “instant decision day” for prospective students interested in enrolling in the new bachelor’s degree program in engineering at Biltmore Park from 3:30 until 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, July 22. Representatives of the Kimmel School, including its newly named incoming dean, will be on hand to meet prospective students and answer questions about the program, and admissions counselors will be available to offer same-day decisions to students who apply that day.

For more information about programs in the Kimmel School, visit the website kimmel.wcu.edu.