Concerned faculty and staff gathered in a conference room in the Pollak Library on Wednesday to get a taste of what Houssam Toutanji has to offer as the possible new dean of the College of Engineering and Computer Science at Cal State Fullerton.
During the event, the engineering community asked Toutanji questions ranging from how he will fix problems within the department to what he’s looking forward to if he does assume the position.
Toutanji currently serves as the dean of the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences at Western Michigan University. His civil engineering credentials include a bachelor’s and master’s degree in civil engineering from Northeastern University and a doctorate in civil engineering from Worcester Polytechnic Institute.
During his presentation, he highlighted issues like admitting more female engineers into the engineering program and emphasizing a bottom-up leadership within the college itself.
Toutanji found the population for female engineering students to be around 13 to 14 percent on average. One solution he proposed was an invitation to all admitted female engineering students to spend the day with the dean and participate in programs focused on women in the engineering world.
“The idea is that we need you to come here. You are welcome here,” Toutanji said.
He also highlighted his vision for the undergraduate education system, ways to attract more funding to the college and the main characteristics of a good dean.
At the end of his presentation, Toutanji pointed out the department’s excellent opportunities for growth in its academic and research endeavors, and said it is ready to take on bigger and better opportunities.
Toutanji talked about the department’s greatest weakness within the faculty.
“From what I know so far, we have positions available, but they cannot find offices for these faculty,” Toutanji said.
Another challenge Toutanji pointed out was a lack of research opportunities for faculty within the college.
“Are we going to do research or are we going to aspire to do research? I’m not saying we should or should not, but we should have this conversation,” Toutanji said.
He went on to address how some professors often try to do research while also teaching four classes, but there is only so much time in the day and it’s difficult to fit in both.
Jonathan Woodland, a mechanist and director of the machine shop for College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics as well as the College of Engineering, had additional questions for the prospective dean.
“Would you consider taking space from faculty who don’t use their research labs?” Woodland said.
Toutanji said it was a “sensitive issue” and that an open conversation is needed to address it.
The prospective dean ended his presentation with a slide of CSUF’s mascot Tuffy the Titan and proclaimed to the room, “Go Titans!”
Kevan Shafizadeh, another candidate for dean of the College of Engineering and Computer Science from Cal State Sacramento will also have an open forum on April 27 at 2:15 p.m. at the O’Brien Center in the Steven G. Mihaylo Hall.