Outgoing dean Hesham El-Rewini has overseen a time of great change for the UND College of Engineering and Mines.
From a new Collaborative Energy Center to large increases in student enrollment and endowments, El-Rewini has been a guiding force for the college. However, he says it’s a change in the culture of the college that he’s most proud of as he prepares to depart for a job on the East Coast in the coming weeks.
El-Rewini, who has been dean of the college since 2008, will be leaving UND on June 18 to become the provost at Marymount University in Arlington, Va.
El-Rewini says he will miss UND and the college as both, along with North Dakota and Grand Forks, have become a part of his family.
“This deanship here has been the most fulfilling job in my career,” he said, adding he has been in academia for more than 30 years.
El-Rewini said he will be sad to leave UND but decided now was the best time to take his career in a different direction.
“I’ve really enjoyed being able to contribute to the college, but I think now is the time to contribute at a bigger scale,” he said, noting the provost’s position will allow him to contribute to a university as a whole. “North Dakota will always be our home.”
El-Rewini’s departure comes full-circle as Joshua Wynne, who has been named interim president at UND, was on the search committee that hired El-Rewini in 2008. El-Rewini said he recently found a letter from Wynne which encouraged him to apply for the dean’s position in 2007.
Steve Burian was also a part of the committee that ultimately hired El-Rewini. Burian is also the vice chair of the executive board that helps oversee the College of Engineering and Mines. The executive board includes UND alumni and non-alumni, as well as local and global business leaders in and out of the engineering field.
“He has been an outstanding dean,” Burian said.
During El-Rewini’s time at UND, the College of Engineering and Mines has grown significantly. According to a recent report of college growth, undergraduate enrollment has increased 119% and online enrollment has gone up by 285%. The number of degree programs has grown by 71% since 2008, and there also has been a large increase in graduate programs.
Endowments to the college also have gone up, including a 221% jump in student scholarship endowments and a 534% increase in faculty endowments.
El-Rewini guided the college through the construction of the $15.5 million Collaborative Energy Complex, which was funded through private donations and nearly $4 million from the North Dakota Higher Education Challenge Fund.
UND also has announced plans to invest $10 million over five years to hire computational science research faculty to bolster the university’s standing in artificial intelligence, machine learning and cyber security. Those faculty will be housed in a renovated Babcock Hall, also the home of the new Big Data hub.
The addition of petroleum engineering is one of El-Rewini’s biggest accomplishments, Burian said.
“Being able to add that dimension to the College of Engineering and Mines was a success story for him,” he said.
While those achievements have happened under El-Rewini’s leadership over the past 11 years, he said those gains wouldn’t have been possible without the faculty and staff who helped push those changes.
“It wasn’t me,” he said. “I was just there to maybe help. Support here, inspire there, maybe provide a plan. But they are the ones who deserve all the credit, those hardworking faculty, those hardworking staff and those hardworking students.”
El-Rewini said the deans that came before him also made the college’s current success possible.
“I’m standing on their shoulders,” he said.
Interim dean Brian Tande said El-Rewini has been a great mentor and a great leader for the college.
“He’s guided the college through a lot of changes … and also through some challenging times budget wise, but he’s done an amazing job and has really positioned us well for the future,” he said.
Tande, who began at UND in 2006, described El-Rewini’s leadership style as collaborative. He said the leadership team in the college meets with El-Rewini regularly to discuss various decisions to be made in the school.
“That’s one thing I definitely appreciate,” Tande said. “He’s very collaborative in how he approaches decisions.”
El-Rewini said simplicity has driven his leadership style.
“Do the basic things, things that we learned in elementary school,” he said. “What did they teach you in elementary school? Fulfill your promise? OK. Be honest? Of, course. Those little things that sometimes we forget about in the midst of doing the big things.”
El-Rewini said, while he’s proud of all the accomplishments the college has had over the last decade, he is most proud of the culture that has been created at the college. He has started programs, such as Tea with the Dean and Walk with the Dean, to get to know students, faculty and staff better. He also hosts lunches for faculty and staff members, as well as townhall meetings that El-Rewini uses to explain various happenings at the college.
“We appreciate selflessness, we appreciate humility, we appreciate things that North Dakotans appreciate,” he said. “This is why I am so happy to come to work every single day.”