NYU’s Tandon School of Engineering appoints first female dean
For the first time in its 164-year history, the former Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn appointed its first female dean yesterday. Jelena Kovacevic was named dean of NYU’s Tandon School of Engineering by President Andrew Hamilton and Provost Katherine Fleming, effective Aug. 15. Kovacevic, who comes from Carnegie Mellon University — where she is the Hamerschlag University professor, the head of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and a professor of biomedical engineering — is the first woman to head the school since its founding in 1854.
Kovacevic will take the reins of an institution that has shown remarkable successes since it first affiliated with NYU in 2008, including:
Advancing nearly 40 places in the US News and World Report rankings
More than quadrupling research funding
Experiencing an increase in freshman SAT scores of more than 150 points
Nearly doubling the percentage of female undergraduates to 35 percent
NYU has committed $500 million to improving Tandon’s facilities and programs, which are central to the University’s growing academic presence in Brooklyn. Tandon has had deep connections to Brooklyn throughout its history. NYU is committed to keeping the school an active community partner through its program of providing STEM educational resources to local students and teachers and strengthening its ties with Brooklyn’s innovation economy, among other efforts.
Hamilton said, “Over time, the restoration of engineering and the generous support of the engineering school by the Tandons will be seen as pivotal in NYU’s history. In the years since that happened, Tandon has advanced enormously. Nevertheless, we have even greater ambitions for its future.
“One of NYU’s historic strengths is setting high ambitions for itself, and finding the right leaders to achieve them. In Jelena Kovacevic, we have found just such a person.
“She impressed us not just with her scholarship, but also with her thoughtful approach to strategy, leadership and execution, the future of the engineering profession and education and the promise of Tandon’s Brooklyn location and NYU’s global outlook. We were also struck by her down-to-earth manner, her resolve and — a crucial requirement for life in New York — her warm sense of humor.
“Jelena intuitively understands that this is a “moment’ for Tandon. And we have complete confidence that she knows how to build on Tandon’s momentum and the burgeoning local tech sector.”
Professor Kurt Becker, the chair of the Search Committee, said, “Professor Jelena Kovacevic stood out among the large number of candidates as the best one to leverage the significant progress that Tandon has made in the last few years and take the school to an even higher level. The committee felt that her achievements as head of a Top 10 department in a top-10 engineering school make her uniquely qualified to be the next leader of our school and a great asset to the university and the borough of Brooklyn.”
Chandrika Tandon, chair of the Tandon Board of Overseers and vice chair of the NYU Board of Trustees, said, “The investment in engineering and applied sciences is a flagship initiative for NYU. The School of Engineering has been on a rapid trajectory of transformation. Accelerating that momentum is vital to the future of the school. We are all truly excited that Jelena will bring her extraordinary leadership, vision, energy and execution abilities and vault us forward.”
Kovacevic said, “It is an honor to be named dean of the Tandon School of Engineering. I am thrilled to be joining a community widely known for its venerable history in the field of engineering, its deep connection to Brooklyn, its vibrancy and diversity, and its upward trajectory. I look forward to working together with everyone at Tandon to achieve everything we dream of for the school.”
NYU eliminated its engineering school in the early 1970’s when it sold its Bronx campus to CUNY. After four decades without an engineering program, NYU affiliated with the Polytechnic University in 2008 and formally merged with it on Jan 1, 2014; the engineering institute became what is now NYU’s Tandon School of Engineering. Engineering is also taught at NYU’s campuses in Abu Dhabi and Shanghai.
Kovacevic has been a professor of electrical and computer engineering and biomedical engineering at Carnegie Mellon University since 2003; she was named the Schramm Professor in 2014 and head of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering in 2014, and named the Hamerschlag University professor in 2016. From 1991 through 2002, she worked at Bell Laboratories as a Member of Technical Staff in Signal Processing Research Department, and later as a member of the Mathematics of Communications Research Department.
Her research interests include applying data science to a number of domains, such as biology, medicine, and smart infrastructure, and she is an authority on multiresolution techniques, such as wavelets and frames. She is the author or co-author of several books — including Foundations of Signal Processing (Cambridge University Press, 2014) and Wavelets and Subband Coding (Prentice Hall, 1995) — and many scholarly articles in reviewed engineering journals. She also has 21 patents to her name. Among her many honors and awards, she is a Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and the European Signal Processing Conference (EUSIPCO) and a recipient of the Belgrade October Prize (1986), the EI Jury Prize at Columbia University (1991), the CIT Philip L. Dowd Fellowship (2010), and the IEEE SPS Technical Achievement Award (2016).
She received her undergraduate degree in electrical engineering from the University of Belgrade. She received her MS and Ph.D. also in electrical engineering from Columbia University.
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