Dean, University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering

U.S. Steel Dean, Swanson School of Engineering

Position Description

The University of Pittsburgh invites nominations and applications for, as well as confidential expressions of interest in, the position of U.S. Steel Dean of the Swanson School of Engineering.


The University of Pittsburgh (Pitt) seeks an eminent, energetic, strategic, driven, and collaborative leader to serve as the dean of the Swanson School of Engineering. The dean is responsible for all aspects of Engineering research activities, academic programs, fundraising, finances, outreach, and other operations. The dean is charged with the responsibility of maintaining the highest standards of research, scholarship, and teaching and of fostering meaningful relationships with institutional, industry, and community partners. As a member of the University of Pittsburgh academic leadership team, the dean works closely with faculty, staff, students, the provost, and the chancellor, to manage the engineering programs and resources in furtherance of the University’s academic and institutional goals.


The University of Pittsburgh first awarded engineering degrees in 1846, making it one of the oldest engineering programs in the world. In 2007, the school received a generous naming gift from alumnus John A. Swanson and became known as the Swanson School of Engineering. Today, the Swanson School has 130 tenured/tenure-stream faculty, 50 full-time appointment stream faculty, and 2,640 undergraduate and 800 full-time graduate students. The six departments of the school (Bioengineering, Chemical and Petroleum Engineering, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Electrical and Computer Engineering, Industrial Engineering, and Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science) cover a broad range of disciplines and conduct world-class research as demonstrated by impressive increases in research activity and expenditures over the past five years. In fiscal year 2023, the total research expenditure of the school exceeded $61 million. Overall, U.S. News & World Report ranks Pitt 45th on its list of the best global universities, placing it in the top three percent of institutions worldwide.


With a new Chancellor, Joan Gabel, having started in July 2023 and a provost search underway, the University of Pittsburgh is in an exciting period of transition. The next Swanson School dean will have the opportunity to join a coalescing leadership team and to think creatively about how the school can evolve to ensure a bright future for engineering at the University of Pittsburgh. The dean will be expected to develop excellent working relationships with the faculty, staff, students, trustees, and alumni on strategic efforts to advance the academic enterprise; to enhance the quality of undergraduate education and strengthen graduate programs; to navigate the opportunities and challenges presented by emerging instructional technologies; to confront the challenge of decreasing college affordability; and to forge stronger collaborations with other divisions of the University and external partners.



The Position

To secure the Swanson School of Engineering's competitiveness for the future, rigorous investment and strategic planning are imperative. Identifying key opportunities demands a comprehensive understanding of emerging trends in engineering education and research. The dean must strategically allocate resources to sustain faculty excellence, enhance research initiatives, and fortify academic programs. This involves fostering collaborations within the school and across the University, as well as leveraging the vibrant Pittsburgh ecosystem for strategic partnerships with industry and research organizations. Furthermore, a forward-looking approach is crucial to navigate the evolving academic landscape, addressing challenges posed by instructional technologies and ensuring the quality and modality of degree programs align with industry demands. Concurrently, the dean should explore innovative graduate programs, emphasizing industry applications, while maintaining a commitment to excellence in doctoral education. The dean of the Swanson School of Engineering reports to the provost and will be expected to fulfill the following leadership opportunities:

Sustain faculty excellence and enhance research and scholarship within Engineering: The Swanson School has highly regarded faculty and programs and competes with other institutions for talent. The dean will need to ensure that the Swanson School remains competitive and attractive to current and prospective faculty, students, and staff and will need to partner with school and University leadership to foster research productivity including garnering funds for large-scale centers and institutes.

Advance undergraduate education: The University of Pittsburgh has a demonstrated commitment to a holistic student experience with substantial investments in advising, co-curricular professional experiences, and international programs. The dean needs to sustain and augment existing efforts to ensure the school’s academic quality and student success and experience.

Foster innovation in graduate education: The dean must work with faculty to maintain excellence in doctoral education and grow and develop existing and new innovative graduate and professional programs that are responsive to students’ needs and their future career prospects.

Provide leadership in a rapidly changing academic landscape: The dean will be asked to develop and execute strategies to address a variety of critical academic issues, including the quality and modality of degree programs at all levels, the nature and extent of interdisciplinary programs, the configuration of curricular offerings, and enrollment across all academic areas.

Build internal collaboration: There continue to be important opportunities for collaboration across the divisions within the school and across schools within the University, including the University’s highly regarded health sciences schools. The dean should foster curiosity and dialogue throughout the campus community, enhance existing collaborations, support existing University-wide strengths that reside within the school, seek out new opportunities and facilitate their exploration and establishment, and effectively leverage and deepen the excellence in the University’s other schools for mutual benefit.

Leverage the surrounding community to strengthen external partnerships: The location of the University offers access to a host of opportunities for strategic initiatives with industry partners and research organizations such as UPMC, Pittsburgh-based federal laboratories, and numerous local robotics and artificial intelligence companies. Commercialization and industrially sponsored research are important revenue streams that will be advanced by cultivating relationships that support the translation of research and ideas into industry. An entrepreneurial dean will reinforce these ties and seek out creative ways to engage local and global partners.

Lead and foster diversity, equity, and inclusion: Diversity is key to academic excellence and institutional strength. The dean will need to support the school’s existing efforts to enhance diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging among faculty, staff, and students and lead in the development of new initiatives. The dean should also embrace higher education’s role as an engine of economic mobility.

Increase resources through fundraising: The dean will be expected to dedicate significant time and attention to strategic fundraising efforts that increase the school’s visibility and appeal to potential donors, funders, and collaborators and secure resources for sustained growth. The dean, working with the Board of Visitors and the Pitt’s advancement team, will need to develop a cohesive strategy to position the Swanson School at the forefront of academic excellence and innovation and increase the breadth and depth of the donor pool to ensure that the school is positioned to maintain strong philanthropic relationships in the years to come.

Manage resources to ensure a strong financial future: The dean must work strategically with University and school leaders and the Swanson School community to continue to manage resources transparently and wisely, maintaining sound budgetary controls and principled resource allocation, in order to fulfill the school’s mission. 

Serve as one of the University’s senior leaders, advocating effectively for the Swanson School of Engineering in institutional settings: Deans at the University of Pittsburgh have autonomy within their schools to enact their strategic visions and initiatives. For institutional resource decisions, such as budgetary allocations and capital facilities investments, the dean needs to be an effective advocate in University-wide settings to ensure the Swanson School of Engineering has the resources it needs for the highest success.

Candidates will be expected to have the following professional qualifications and personal characteristics:

Academic stature: Distinguished academic accomplishments, commensurate with appointment at the rank of full professor with tenure in the Swanson School, and appropriate to the leadership of a school with a tradition of excellence in research, teaching, and service;

Academic leadership: Proven ability in fostering and the strong commitment to the continued excellence of research and educational programs, enhancing faculty visibility and recognition, respect for the dedication of an outstanding faculty and staff, and the flexibility to adapt to the rapidly changing academic landscape;

Vision and execution: Demonstrated ability to develop a shared vision and lead its successful execution;

Strategically collaborative: Experience in building partnerships locally and globally, increasing visibility and impact, and advancing economic development and meaningful connections with industry;

Visibility and compelling presence: Ability to be a strong, visible, and accessible presence within and on behalf of the school and to galvanize enthusiasm and unity around a strategic vision;

Strategic decision-making and effective communication: Skill in consolidating the requisite information to make timely and well-informed decisions and the communication abilities to convey decisions and other key information to faculty, senior administrators, trustees, staff, students, alumni, donors, and other constituents, transparently and with empathy;

Management experience and stakeholder understanding: Experience with the management of complex organizational structures, especially the ability to work effectively in a matrixed decision-making environment, and a strong grasp of the needs of students, faculty, industry, and alumni to drive collaborative success;

Financial acumen: Proven ability in financial management of budgets involving personnel, facilities, programmatic resources, research initiatives, and student success; and

Fundraising skill: Prior experience in development is strongly preferred. The dean serves as the primary fundraiser for the Swanson School of Engineering and must provide vibrant leadership to engage others often and as appropriate on behalf of the school.

Strong candidates must have an earned doctorate and the academic qualifications commensurate with appointment at the rank of full professor with tenure in one of the school’s departments, and be recognized for research excellence, leadership, and scholarship in an area relevant to the Swanson School. Additionally, they should have a compelling vision for the future and integration of diverse disciplines, be able to lead and advance a world-class research enterprise, have a strong commitment to holistic education, and have a demonstrated dedication to mentoring and developing faculty and staff. Ideal candidates will have developed center-scale research programs, led successful research collaborations across departments and schools, participated in the development of novel curricula, and have a record of academic and professional leadership. Excellent organizational, interpersonal, and communication skills are required.


The Search

Inquiries, nominations, and applications are invited. Although the search will remain open until the position is filled, review of candidate materials will begin immediately and materials should be submitted by January 22, 2024, for fullest consideration. Candidates should provide, in confidence, a curriculum vitae, a letter of application that highlights the leadership opportunities and professional qualifications and personal characteristics described in this document, and the names and contact information of five references. References will not be contacted without the prior knowledge and approval of the candidates.


Materials should be sent electronically via email to the University’s consultant, Dr. Jonathan Fortescue of Park Square Executive Search, at Documents that must be mailed may be sent to Jonathan Fortescue, PhD, Managing Partner, or Kyle Meingast, Partner, Park Square Executive Search, LLC, 225 Franklin Street, 17th Floor, Boston, MA 02110. Phone: 617-401-2991.


The Swanson School of Engineering is fully committed to a diverse academic environment and places high priority on attracting female and underrepresented minority candidates. Candidates from these groups are encouraged to apply for the position. 

The University of Pittsburgh is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer and values equality of opportunity, human dignity, and diversity. EOE, including disability/vets.