INSIDE BINGHAMTON UNIVERSITY
New Watson dean outlines goals
By : Eric Coker
Preparing students for success in an increasingly globalized world is just one of the goals for Krishnaswami “Hari” Srihari, the new dean of the Thomas J. Watson School of Engineering and Applied Science.
“In the world in which we live, we’re working with people across the planet and that is only going to increase for the next generation,” Srihari said. “How do we help our students become more competitive in this globalized, diverse environment? How can we strengthen our current international collaborations and institute new relationships?”
Srihari became dean on June 1, succeeding Seshu Desu, who is now director of the University’s Center for Autonomous Solar Power (CASP). Srihari, a distinguished professor in the Department of Systems Science and Industrial Engineering (SSIE), has served as chair of the department and as director of the Watson Institute for Systems Excellence (WISE), one of the University’s institutes for advanced study.
Srihari also wants to see the Watson School enhance its interdisciplinary work. For example, he sees faculty in the health systems concentration partnering with colleagues in the Decker School of Nursing or the School of Management.
“We have to work harder to establish relationships with our colleagues in other schools,” he said. “There is a lot of commonality and overlapping interests.
“It’s critical for our students and faculty to have intradisciplinary, interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary academic activity. It could be in the teaching arena, research, scholarship; it could have many facets. It is important for Watson’s growth.”
Another pursuit for Srihari is the establishment of a minor in sustainable engineering, which he hopes will be in place by the spring of 2011.
Srihari knows that like other engineering schools — and other universities — Watson faces a serious short-term challenge: “How can we be more effective and efficient given the (current) financial constraints?” he said.
Dealing with challenges will be helped by a cornerstone of faculty, staff and students that Srihari calls “an excellent group of people working together in academia with a goal of education, research, scholarship and service.”
“The faculty and staff understand that the primary reason we are here is the student,” said Srihari, who lives in Endicott with his wife and two children. “Whether he or she is a freshman or doctoral candidate, that is the reason we are here.”
Srihari pointed to the Center of Excellence in Small Scale Systems Integration and Packaging (S3IP); research focuses such as cybersecurity; the overall student body; and the work of Watson faculty as examples of the school’s strengths.
“Whether it’s (professors) Jessica Fridrich, Kanad Ghose or Ron Miles, they are all world-class researchers who are adding significant breadth and depth to what Watson and Binghamton does,” he said.
Srihari also emphasized the economic impact that Watson has on the Southern Tier and state through its work with federal agencies and industry. Faculty and staff work in the community is beneficial, as well, he said. Bonnie Cornick, assistant to the chair of SSIE, has worked with the Boys and Girls Club of Western Broome. This led to the University chapter of Engineers Without Borders repairing the flood-damaged Endicott facility.
The Watson School will soon see expansion when the Engineering and Science building opens next to the Biotechnology Building at the Innovative Technologies Complex. The building, which will house the dean’s office, the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, the Department of Mechanical Engineering and the Integrated Electronics Engineering Center (IEEC), will feature state-of-the-art research lab space.
“It will be a fantastic catalyst for growth from an academic perspective,” Srihari said.
Srihari, who came to the University in 1988 after receiving his doctorate in industrial engineering and operations research from Virginia Tech, plans to continue his teaching and research. This semester, he will teach Enterprise Systems Engineering, a core requirement for graduate students in the industrial and systems engineering program. He will also continue to lead WISE.
“I love to teach,” he said. “The interaction with the students is marvelous.”
Teaching one class a year will keep Srihari in touch with students, he said, and the relationship with them is key for Watson and the University.
“What can we do best for the student?” he said. “That should be our guiding light.”