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Penn Engineering Dean Vijay Kumar

Photo: Courtesy of Penn Engineering

Vijay Kumar, a professor in the School of Engineering and Applied Science and a researcher in robotics, is set to take the helm of the school when he replaces Dean Eduardo Glandt beginning June 1.

Kumar has held several administrative positions in the Engineering School during his time, including director of the General Robotics, Automation, Sensing and Perception Lab and chair of the Mechanical Engineering and Applied Mechanics department.

The Daily Pennsylvanian sat down with Kumar to hear about his plans for the future of the Engineering School and the field of technology.

The Daily Pennsylvanian: You’ve done some outstanding work in robotics — what have you found most rewarding in your work here at Penn?

Vijay Kumar: That’s easy — working with students. If you think about it, this is the only job where you can work with the youngest and smartest people and watch them grow. At the same time you can have them contribute to a vision that you have in research. Penn in particular is very special: The undergraduate students are off-scale.

DP: What are your goals as dean of the Engineering School next semester?

VK: I’d really like to increase the footprint that technology has on campus. Technology is playing a more important role in our lives and society, and it’s only natural that we make sure technology plays a bigger role on campus. I also think a goal is that Penn Engineering has a bigger footprint outside of campus — I’d love to increase the number of faculty, research space and students.

DP: What do you mean by increasing the footprint of technology?

VK: I think we need to be thinking about what kinds of issues matter to all students, not just engineering, in terms of technology and how do we make sure that we train students in that. Part of the liberal arts education at Penn is knowing a little bit about technology; it’s our mission to teach you this.

I’d also like to make it easier for people to use the tools that we use to teach the engineering students.

DP: Do you think there are any changes that need to be made to the Engineering School?

VK: I think we are doing lots of things well. I think one thing we have to do is empower our own students. We need to empower them to innovate, to try, to fail and to learn from the failures and try again.

DP: Will you still be working on research when you take on this new position?

VK: As a faculty member here we teach and do research. The amount of time that I’m going to be spending doing both will be smaller, but I hope to do more research vicariously because I will interact with more students doing lots of things.

DP: What types of responsibilities do you take on as dean?

VK: One side is running the school and the other is setting the intellectual agenda for the school, determining what aspects to focus on in terms of teaching, what new areas to explore in terms of research and how to create new programs that are more vibrant or exciting and that can attract the best students.

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