Photo by Candace diCarlo
Eduardo Glandt, dean of the School of Engineering and Applied Science since last November, is outgoing and charming. But underneath that international charm hes a native of Argentina are plans to recruit top-notch faculty, push hot fields like nanotechnology and computational science, and bring the school a global perspective.
Widely respected by his faculty peers, he came to the job with the advantage of having a year to practice the job as interim dean.
But, as he said in our interview, the interim deanship was really not an adequate dress rehearsal for the permanent job. Like other recent deans, he soon found he still had to hit the ground running.
Q. How do you feel about your job and the school after a year on
A. Its been a whirlwind. I had been interim dean for a year plus, [but] I myself was not prepared for all the things that started to unfold once you are in place and in command for the vision of the place.
Q. What were some of the surprises?
A. The surprises here are, again, in spite of my previous warm-up year in the job, how many things that are going on at the same time. You need a lot of parallel processing, especially for a school of this size. I imagine that [in] a smaller school there is less going on. A larger school, the dean can delegate more. This is exactly the right size where you have to be involved in many things, and there are many things to be involved in.
And that is wonderful because it keeps you busy, it stimulates you. It is also dangerous because you have to remind yourself to keep the focus on what matters and not to be distracted by the many other things that you need to be doing.
The main issues are education and research. Thats what this place is about and thats why we are really working hard developing these things.
Q. Where do you think the school stands now in these areas?
A. I think it stands better than it did a year ago, because researchwise we are moving in various arenas. I have spent much time recruiting Fernando Fereira, who is the new [computer and information science] chair, and that is somebody who will really help us change the place, help us recruit individuals of the most sterling quality.
We are taking another major thrust in bioengineering. I am not at liberty to announce any big developments, but they are in the pipeline and we will have, hopefully, in three months or so a major announcement about developments in that regard. And [we appointed] two task forces to look into two areas that could bring the school together. One is nanotechnology, which is a hot field, and the other is computational science, which again weaves together computer science with the other engineering [disciplines]. And we are searching for sterling hires in those fields as well.
Q. Do you have a goal of getting the engineering school into the
absolute top rank?
A. I do, but the metric is not the U.S. News & World Report ranking. My goal is that this will be one of the sterling places in the country, and in some areas it is already. The historical accident is that this is such a small school, and because of a number of reasons cannot grow significantly, only marginally. We can never hope to compete with the large state schools and the techs. So we have to excel by different [means].
Q. What surprised you most when you became permanent dean?
A. The pace at which things started to move became much faster. I had worked very hard that first year, and I always say that when you become dean, they take your private life, the personal life, and they throw it away. You hope to find it again five or seven years later.
When you are interim dean, you have a moral obligation not to make any decisions that actually belong to the dean thats coming in. So I had spent a whole year putting off decisions, asking people to wait until the new dean was designated. The day that I was designated dean, all those people were back at the door in 24 hours. I thought that I already knew what the job was. It was an order of magnitude faster and the decisions were more significant.
Q. Do you feel any special responsibility as the first Hispanic dean
of any school at Penn?
A. My interests have always been to get involved in the Hispanic community. I am on the board of La Casa Latina, [and] I have been socializing with the Society of Professional Hispanic Engineers.
Q. Would you like to see a bigger Hispanic presence
A. Absolutely. For instance, I have two nieces who are like my daughters, and both came to Penn. One six years ago, and the other one is a senior right now. Both are perfectly bilingual and they move [in] both worlds. I see how they bond with their Hispanic classmates, and that there is a whole wonderful community on campus. And I get to know many of them through my niece. I know the engineers, these overlapping worlds, but its an interesting window into the students, to have a child, and in this case a niece, on campus. It gives you a view from the other side. It also gives you interesting perspectives on the faculty members that shes taking courses with.
Q. Has she shared her opinions about them with you?
A. Shes not shy. Students are so wise, that even in courses where they do not like the course that much or the teacher, they take a kinder and gentler attitude, are more understanding than one would expect. At the same time, they are never shy. They can explain away why a person could not do something. Theyre caring but candid.
Q. Since you are from Argentina, would it be one of your goals to
broaden the schools global perspective?
A. Im happy to hear you say that, because thats one of my goals. At Penn, we have nine, 10 percent international students, and Engineering has more, probably 16. However, many of our students are first-generation Americans, and the number of students who are bilingual is very, very high.
Interestingly enough, there was a project that some bioengineering students were doing, they were doing EEGs, electroencephalograms in the lab, an undergraduate lab, and one of the groups, they were all perfectly bilingual with English and another language, and they decided to test whether when they were speaking in English or in the other language the EEG would be different. And it turned out to be that they were using a different part [of the brain].
So that gives you an idea of the diversity, the cultural diversity of the place. And so one of my goals is to really facilitate in trying to cajole the students into going abroad to any of the programs that we have, of establishing new programs for semesters abroad and above all, for using distance learning technology to bring the abroad into the building.
Kids historically, myself included, have learned engineering in the classroom filled with their clones, with people who have taken the same courses that they have taken exactly. But the reality of the job place is not like that. You go to work with people from different universities with different majors, different seniorities, and to be able to interact fluidly with these people is something that I would really like to instill [in our students].
Originally published on November 30, 2000