University announces new Engineering dean

James Aylor to take sabbatical, return to faculty next year, Craig Benson will begin July


Benson is currently the chair of the department of civil and environmental engineering and the department of geological engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

The University announced this week Craig Benson will succeed James Aylor as the 13th Dean of the School of Engineering and Applied Science.

The search committee for the new Engineering Dean was formed by University President Teresa Sullivan and Provost John Simon and chaired by Engineering Prof. Anita Jones.

“The search committee was thrilled and impressed with the very high caliber of candidates with interest in the position of Dean of the School of Engineering and Applied Science” Jones said. “Craig Benson was a leader among them.”

Sullivan lauded Benson’s expertise, which she said would allow him to build upon the foundation set by Aylor.

“The School of Engineering and Applied Science has solidified its position as a national and global leader in the engineering and science fields that the school represents,” Sullivan said. “Craig Benson’s experience and vision will sustain this momentum.”

Benson is currently chair of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and the Department of Geological Engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Benson was awarded the Croes Medal for the American Society of Civil Engineers as well as the Middlebrooks Award for the American Society of Civil Engineers. He is also an expert in environmental containment systems, solid waste, radioactive waste, reusing industrial byproducts in construction applications and sustainable engineering, according to the University of Wisconsin-Madison website.

Simon said he is thrilled Benson accepted the position and hopes to see further innovation by the renowned engineer here at the University. Aylor said he thinks the Engineering School will offer Benson strong opportunities.

“I’m excited and the school is in great shape and I think it’s a great platform for the new dean to come in and really do some exciting things and I think the person they’ve got has the credentials,” Aylor said.

Aylor has been Dean of Engineering for 11 years and will rejoin the University as a faculty member after a one-year sabbatical. Aylor increased enrollment, increased revenue to research, built new facilities and promoted relationships with major industries for students.

Aylor said one the most important roles of Dean is to be versatile in outreach.

“I think the idea is that you’ve got to be interested in people, in reaching out to alumni, interested in reaching out to legislators,” Aylor said. “You’re going to find yourself in a lot of situations and environments and you’ve got to have good interpersonal relationships.”

Since he became the dean 10.5 years ago, Aylor said there have been two particular focuses for the administration of the Engineering School — increasing research funding and enabling the students and faculty in the industry.

“I’ve tried to increase the amount of externally funded research the faculty is doing and to increase the amount of research funding that comes from industry,” Aylor said. “Most of the students go to industry — about 80 percent — and I think it’s really important that we try to create more strategic relationships.”

Aylor helped to increase engineering undergraduate enrollment from 2,200 students to 2,700 in the past five years and increasing engineering faculty from 140 to about 170 members by 2015. Aylor said the ultimate goal is to reach 200 faculty members.

Aylor said he chose to vacate the position of Dean to return to research unrealized due to his administrative duties.

“I had two five-year terms and I figured that’s probably a good time to step down from the position,” Aylor said. “I’m interested in going back to do some research and going back to do some teaching. I’ve really missed that.”

Benson’s term will begin July 1.

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