Vice provost, engineering dean to step down

With the new school year underway, two high-level Northeastern officials have stepped down from their offices to make way for fresh faces.

Malcolm Hill, former vice provost for undergraduate education, left his position at the end of August, while College of Engineering Dean Allen Soyster will step down in November.

Dean Soyster will be on leave from the university to serve as division director for engineering centers and education for the National Science Foundation (NSF). He said he will work to improve engineering education and research while away from Boston.

“After 10 years, it’s time for someone else to take the lead and improve further,” Soyster said.

Soyster served as dean for the past 10 years, during which he was involved in education initiatives, teaching and recruiting faculty. He said he also competed with other schools to get NSF funding.

In total dollars per faculty members given by the NSF, Soyster said Northeastern has the second highest rate in the country.

During his tenure at Northeastern, he said the number of engineering applicants doubled and the graduate rates improved by 15 percent.

Soyster said his single biggest accomplishment was when the college acquired the Egan Engineering Research Center in 2000. Ninety other schools applied for the funding, he said, but only Northeastern and the University of Michigan received centers.

To a degree, acquiring the center was “our coming-of-age” and expectations were much higher afterward, he said.

When Soyster leaves in November, he said there will most likely be an interim person to fill the position until a permanent replacement can be found. President Joseph Aoun and Provost Ahmed Abdelal will have the responsibility to find a new dean for the College of Engineering, he said.

Malcolm Hill is no longer Northeastern’s vice provost, but he’s only moved a few buildings away.

Hill said he stepped down from his position to reconnect with students and faculty colleagues as a faculty member in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences. Susan Powers-Lee, former chair of the biology department, filled the vacancy Sept. 1.

Hill served as the associate dean for undergraduate education in arts and sciences for eight years before becoming the vice provost for the past four years.

“I enjoyed the time I spent as associate dean and as vice provost, but I’m already enjoying the ability to focus a lot of attention on only a few projects,” Hill said in an e-mail.

As a member of the faculty, Hill said he plans to put his university-level knowledge to good use by working on projects with the dean’s office. One such project is the development of a new environmental science major, which, he said, is almost ready to be put into the curriculum review process within the college.

“People in the Provost’s Office learn what we offer in every college, and you get to meet faculty, students and staff that you probably would not have met otherwise,” Hill said. “You can’t help but come away with an appreciation for how much dedicated effort it takes on everyone’s part throughout the university to help [Northeastern] get successfully through each week.”

Powers-Lee, a 23-year faculty member of Northeastern, said Hill did a wonderful job as vice provost.

“A lot of what I’m doing is following up on what he did,” she said.

The three goals on her agenda as the new vice provost are to implement a new general education program that will apply to all undergraduate students in all colleges, further enrich experiential education for undergraduate students and coordinate major, general and experiential education, she said.

The development of a new university-wide general education program will provide more depth in the core classes that students are required to take, Powers-Lee said. With a standard general education program, it will become easier for students to switch their majors or colleges during their time at Northeastern, she said, because students won’t have to start taking core requirements over again.

The program is keeping with what President Aoun said in his address to students at Convocation Sept. 3.

Students generally have more than one career and the average student changes their major 2.7 times, President Aoun said.

It’s Northeastern’s job to prepare them for not only the first career, but the third and fourth, Aoun said. Powers-Lee, echoing a similar sentiment, said the general program will help prepare students for those multiple careers by broadening their depth of knowledge.

“It is not enough to just learn information – we want you to be wallowing in information,” she said.

Faculty Senate committees have been working on the new program for three years, and it should be implemented in fall 2007, she said. While the program will only affect incoming freshmen, Powers-Lee said it would provide current students more opportunities and additional class choices.

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