Beena Sukumaran named next dean of Miami's College of Engineering and Computing

By Margo Kissell, university news and communications

Beena Sukumaran, vice president for research at Rowan University, will become dean of Miami University’s College of Engineering and Computing (CEC) on Aug. 1.

Sukumaran has served in her current position at Rowan, a public university in Glassboro, New Jersey, since July 2018. She was a professor and department head (equivalent to a department chair at Miami) of civil and environmental engineering in the College of Engineering from 2015-2017 and a professor and department chair (elected position at Rowan) from 2010-2015.

As a president’s fellow from 2017-2018, her main responsibility was to expand diversity and inclusion efforts on campus for faculty, staff and students.Beena Sukumaran

Beena Sukumaran

Jason Osborne, Miami’s provost and executive vice president for academic affairs, said Sukumaran has had an impressive career at Rowan.

“As a chair, she moved her department substantially toward an innovative, research extensive operation. As vice president for research, she has helped the institution move from a relatively unknown regional public university to one of the universities that is on everyone's radar,” he said.

Osborne added, Sukumaran “has demonstrated her ability to lead in a supportive, collaborative, values-focused manner that will fit well with our institutional culture.”

Sukumaran will succeed Marek Dollár, who will finish his term July 31 and return to the faculty after what Osborne called “a tremendous 20-year deanship.”

Sukumaran was one of three finalists who came to Miami in late winter to meet with the campus community in open sessions.

Osborne said many at Miami had a strong, positive impression of Sukumaran and she “emerged from a broad, diverse, strong national pool to be the clear choice for CEC.”

Sukumaran was born in Malaysia and was there until eighth grade, after which her family moved to India. She came to the United States in 1990.

She received a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from the College of Engineering in Trivandrum, India, and a master’s in civil engineering from Auburn University. She earned a doctorate from Purdue University.

She joined Rowan in 1998 as the third faculty member in the civil and environmental engineering program and helped develop the civil engineering curriculum “while also spending time developing courses and laboratories in my area of expertise, namely geotechnical engineering,” she wrote in her cover letter.

Coming to Miami

Sukumaran said she is excited about coming to Oxford because of Miami’s “high-quality faculty, emphasis on quality undergraduate and graduate education and commitment to providing access to education for a diverse population.”

The student-centered liberal education with an emphasis on global engagement, a hallmark of Miami University, is something she is excited to be a part of.

“I am also enthusiastic about the spirit of innovation and discovery in the CEC, with undergraduate and graduate students working alongside faculty on meaningful projects that improve the quality of life worldwide.”

As vice president for research at Rowan, Sukumaran manages the externally funded research operations and has grown research awards from approximately $40 million to $60 million.

During her tenure as department chair and then head, the department doubled undergraduate student enrollment “without sacrificing quality and has made it a highly competitive and sought-after program,” she wrote. She was also principal investigator of a $1.92 million National Science Foundation (NSF) grant, titled Revolutionizing Engineering Diversity, which looked at various strategies to enhance the diversity and success of the student population.

At Rowan, Sukumaran has embraced the concept of engineering clinics, which she said employs a project-based, learning-by-doing approach and requires students to work across disciplines from freshman to senior year.

“I am proud of the innovative undergraduate program we have developed and will bring this innovative thinking to the new position,” she wrote.

Sukumaran received the American Society of Civil Engineers’ New Jersey Educator of the Year Award in 2010 and the Distinguished Engineering Award in 2013 from the New Jersey Alliance for Action for documenting the infrastructure damage in the state soon after Hurricane Sandy, which was a voluntary effort on behalf of the National Science Foundation (NSF).

During her tenure as department head, Rowan inaugurated a new Center for Transportation Research titled CREATEs in 2016. That same year she received the Research Implementation Award from the New Jersey Department of Transportation.

“I am a strong believer in the idea that a good university professor has to participate actively in research and scholarship," she wrote. She has received approximately $6.7 million in external funding for 35 research grants, from agencies including the NSF and Federal Aviation Administration.

Sukumaran has published about 140 journal articles, technical conference proceeding articles, education proceeding articles and technical reports with undergraduate and graduate students as co-authors.