College of Engineering and Applied Science dean finalist: Joseph Rencis

On Feb. 1, Joseph Rencis talked about his four priorities to improve the College of Engineering and Applied Science: leadership, vision, resources and recognition.

Rencis is currently serving as the interim department head of mechanical engineering and professor of practice at the University of Texas at Dallas. He is the second of three finalists to present as UCCS searches for a new dean for the College of Engineering and Applied Science.

Rencis’ time serving as interim in various positions has made him a transitional leader. “I hit the ground running. I address time critical issues. I have to gain trust right away. I have to adjust to the culture and do all that in a very quick time,” he said.

When it comes to his plan for UCCS, the first of Rencis’ priorities for the campus is leadership. His leadership style operates off of three core pillars: inspiration, innovation and inclusion. “We exist because of the students, but we cannot exist without our faculty, our staff, our administration and supporters helping the students along the way,” he said.

Joe Rencis. Photo courtesy of University of Texas at Dallas.

Rencis’ second priority is vision. He said that when developing a vision for a campus, it is important to involve shareholders to get their feedback and plan out how to implement that feedback.

Until he is able to talk to shareholders about their priorities, Rencis has come up with a couple of goals for the program on his own. The first is to craft a program that prepares students for the industry.

Rencis has found the engineering industry is looking for two characteristics. The first is three-dimensional leaders, which he elaborates to mean global, professional and technical leaders. The second is innovative and interdisciplinary thinkers, which he thinks UCCS is already appealing to with its Bachelors of Innovation program.

Another vision Rencis has for the campus is prioritizing student success. He plans to approach student success by focusing on recruitment, retention and student recognition.

During Rencis’ time as the dean of engineering at Tennessee Tech University, the program saw a 24% increase in enrollment after they started recruiting. He has also served as the dean of engineering at California State Polytechnic University-Pomona, where he said recruitment increased enrollment by 13%.

Rencis has been able to retain students through tutors, supplemental instruction and professional development workshops in the past. As a dean at Tennessee Tech, Rencis said he was able to raise first year retention in the engineering program from 76% to 82%.

When it comes to student success, Rencis believes in recognizing student achievement through events like scholarship banquets and giving awards to students.

Rencis’ third priority is gathering and maintaining resources, which he plans to do through fundraising.

“My approach to fundraising is very simple. It’s first, to get people to imagine. Second is to get them to invest, and then show them the impact,” he said. “It’s also important to have trust with your donor. They have to have trust in the institution, in the leadership and also where their investment is going.”

Finally, Rencis wants to prioritize recognition by holding large-scale events on campus and advocating at the national level. “We really need to tell everybody about all the great things that we’re doing,” he said. “It’s important for the students, the faculty and our administrators to get out at a national level.”

People can give their feedback on Rencis by filling out a survey. The survey is due Feb. 7.

The final candidate, Donald Peterson, is giving his campus presentation on Feb. 5 from 2:15 – 3:15 p.m. in UC 309. It is open to all students, faculty, staff and community members.

Information on the first dean finalist can be found here.

Engineering and Applied Science Building. Photo via the UCCS Photography Database.