Former rocket engineer appointed dean of College of Engineering

19 March 2019

Travis Boren

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    Former dean, Peter Braza, chaired a hiring committee that has decided to bring Don Rabern in as the new dean of the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

    Rabern has about 15 years of industry experience between developing rocket motors before graduate school and his 13 years of experience at the Los Alamos National Laboratory on projects from space shuttle experiments to nuclear safety.

    Rabern sought out the position after seeing the listing online and thought he would be a good fit.

    According to Braza via email, Rabern’s experience as a dean and his experience in research appointments stood out the most when choosing him for the position.

    “He had made a significant community connection in his past roles, and we need that here, too,” said Braza.

    Rabern does not have many specific goals in mind for the college yet. He wants to start in his position and talk to students, staff and faculty before making decisions.

    “I always get a little nervous when people talk about visions and goals before they sit down with administration and students and finding out what’s working and what’s not,” said Rabern.

    Rabern does believe that the Engineering Building needs to be renovated because the laboratory space is outdated and does not meet contemporary standards for cleanliness.

    He wants to increase “high impact experiences for undergraduates.” In engineering, that is internships.

    “[Internships] help students decide where they want to work: in the industry or in academia,” said Rabern. “It gives you data to make smart decisions.”

    Rabern said that being a dean is a job where you make decisions, and that hiring committees for deans are looking for leadership that can make the right decision most of the time.

    “Most people like to do that in a data rich environment,” said Rabern.

    Rabern said that he’s excited to join the team.

    “I hope that I have the opportunity to meet a lot of students and learn where they come from, what they’re thinking and where they’re headed,” said Rabern.

    The previous dean, R. “Dan” Dandapani, has served as interim dean or dean since 2008. He was replaced by interim dean Xiaobo “Chares” Zhou after Dandapani returned to a faculty position in the 2017-2018 academic year.