The University will welcome its first female dean of engineering in January 2008, President Richard Levin announced this week.
T. Kyle Vanderlick, the chair of the Chemical Engineering Department at Princeton University, will replace current Engineering Dean Paul Fleury, who has served in the post for seven years. A chemical engineer who studies interfacial forces — interactions that exist near or between surfaces — Vanderlick has been praised by University officials as well as by her former students for her strong commitment to undergraduate teaching.
Vanderlick said that while she will miss Princeton, she is excited about joining the already strong faculty at Yale. She said many of Levin and Provost Andrew Hamilton’s recent decisions — including the purchase of the Bayer complex this summer — illustrate Yale’s commitment to the growth and development of the sciences and engineering.
“The administration is very committed to engineering at Yale, as I think it should be, since technology is such an important part of the future and a premier institution like Yale understands that,” Vanderlick said. “There’s such a good base to build upon.”
She said her first goal as dean will be to listen to her colleagues in order to understand the culture and dynamic of the University. Eventually, she looks forward to helping the engineering departments build relationships with other faculty on campus in order to undertake interdisciplinary research.
Yale College Dean Peter Salovey said he hopes Vanderlick’s leadership experience will help enhance an undergraduate engineering program that is already on a positive trajectory.
“She has a reputation as a visionary leader and great strategic planner and to top it all off, a famous undergraduate teacher,” Salovey said. “All of this bodes well for attracting students to courses, programs and other activities sponsored by our engineering departments.”
Kelly Wagner, a senior at Princeton who was in Vanderlick’s “Introduction to Materials Science and Engineering” class, said she “made coming to class exciting” by peppering her lectures with demonstrations and games. Wagner said Vanderlick was beloved for her sense of humor, which came out when she replaced the usual list of tables and equations on an exam with a copy of the American League East standings showing the Red Sox ranked first.
“Professor Vanderlick was always accessible and encouraged people to utilize her office hours,” Wagner said in an e-mail. “She would literally be sitting at her desk waiting for us to stop by, and when we did she would explain concepts in new ways, in case the manner it was presented in class did not click.”
Fleury said he thinks Vanderlick will bring “youthful enthusiasm” to the position, as well as providing fresh perspective based on her experience at another institution. Reflecting on his own tenure, Fleury said he is especially proud of the creation of the biomedical and environmental engineering programs, the building of the Malone Center, the University’s pledge to build a new facility for engineers on Hillhouse Avenue, and the faculty hires he shepherded.
“[Vanderlick is] very much a people person with a very strong interest in students and a very strong dedication to interdisciplinary research — all of which are things I think we’ve been trying to foster here at Yale,” he said.
As a woman in a stereotypically male-dominated field, Vanderlick may serve as a role model to women interested in the sciences and help to attract an even wider range of students to the engineering programs at Yale, Salovey said. In its last survey, the American Society for Engineering Education ranked Yale first in the number of engineering bachelor’s degrees awarded to female students.
Vanderlick, who was the first female chair of any science or engineering department at Princeton, said she is anxious to help recruit women simply by demonstrating that women can be successful in engineering fields.
Alicia Fernandez ’09, who is a mechanical engineering major, said she has never felt marginalized as a female in engineering and she is unsure whether or not Vanderlick will be able to increase the number of women interested in the field at Yale.
“It is true that women are greatly outnumbered in the engineering department, but I really do not think having a female dean will change that,” she said in an e-mail. “I have never been treated any differently than my male classmates; I think a difference in interests between most males and females is simply the cause of the divide.”
Vanderlick earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and her doctorate from the University of Minnesota. Before beginning her nine years at Princeton, she was a member of the faculty of the University of Pennsylvania.