El-Rewini reflects on search process, engineering

Between a presidential search process and the activity occurring at UND’s College of Engineering and Mines, it has been a busy year for Hesham El-Rewini.

El-Rewini is the dean of the College of Engineering and Mines and served as co-chairman of the Presidential Search Committee, along with Grant Shaft, former member of the State Board of Higher Education.

“We really had a very exciting journey for several months. We went through a number of phases. Phase one was to listen to the campus, including students, faculty, staff, alumni, community members and legislators,” El-Rewini said. “After that, we deciphered that feedback into 14 points of attributes we would like to see in the president.”

After developing the list of attributes, the search committee began advertising for the position, directing no less than 50 percent of advertising toward women and minority groups. El-Rewini said they reached more than 5,000 people through advertising and outreach efforts. 

The 43 applicants were initially narrowed down to 16 people, who were then interviewed in Minneapolis. Six of these applicants were invited for on-campus visits, and three were recommended to the State Board of Higher Education, who made the final decision.

“I thought that it was very thorough process, and it was very inclusive,” El-Rewini said. “We (the search committee) always had constructive conversation, very respectful dealing with each other.”

The SBHE selected Mark Kennedy on March 15, and
El-Rewini said that Kennedy possessed many of the attributes initially highlighted by the committee, including having leadership skills, appreciating collaborative governance, valuing diversity and having a good understanding of the university system. 

El-Rewini was confident that Kennedy will be the right person for the job, and he said Kennedy’s lack of Ph.D. will not be a problem as he leads the university as president.

“He values the Ph.D. education, but at this point I don’t think it will be an issue,” El-Rewini said. “I think the overwhelming support of the faculty in the survey we conducted shows this won’t be issue.

While El-Rewini has been putting in many hours of work with the presidential search process over the past several months, it has also been an active time at the College of Engineering and Mines. The new Collaborative Energy Complex has been under construction and is projected to open during Homecoming Week this October. 

The CEC will connect Leonard Hall and Upson Hall I, creating a network that ties together the engineering buildings in the southeast corner of UND’s campus. It will be nearly 37,000 square feet and will house research and teaching labs, study spaces and a student success center.

“It’s not only the building, it’s an ecosystem that will take our college and in turn our university into a truly different and new level in becoming the energy entity here in the state, in the region and hopefully in the country,” El-Rewini said.

El-Rewini spoke about the growth of the college in recent history, and he sees the CEC as part of the long-term success of the college and university. 

“In the last 10 years, UND grew by about 2,000 students. Of those, 1,200 students came from engineering. So for the last 10 years, engineering contributed 60 percent of the growth,” El-Rewini said. “That has put us in a good position now, and I expect us to continue to grow.”

During a time of tight budgets, El-Rewini said that UND should be sure to focus on what fits in the mission of the university and strive to focus on programs the university can excel at.

He described three conditions that he believes should be met as the university proceeds: university leaders should be truthful, constantly communicate with the community about the rationale of their decisions and not shy away from making difficult decisions. 

El-Rewini is a native of Egypt, and he earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Alexandria. He said that it was the quality of education at the graduate level, particularly in science and technology fields, in the United States that prompted him to apply to and ultimately attend graduate school at Oregon State University.

“I think the graduate education in the United States is unparalleled; it’s if not the best, one of the best in the world,” El-Rewini said.

He graduated with a Ph.D. in computer science, and he was a professor at a number of institutions, including University of Nebraska Omaha and Southern Methodist University prior to becoming the dean of UND’s College of Engineering and Mines in 2008.

El-Rewini advanced through his career from an assistant professor to an associate professor to a full professor. When given the opportunity to serve as a department chairman at Southern Methodist University, he saw a way to contribute positively in a different fashion in a university setting.

Although El-Rewini serves as a dean at the university, he said he appreciates many of the aspects of being a professor, including teaching, research and service. He still works with new engineering students when they come to the college, and last spring he taught a class on cryptography and security to electrical engineering students.

“This is my eighth year, and the College of Engineering has been nothing but an exciting story for the last seven and a half years since I’ve come here,” El-Rewini said. “I come to work every morning so excited about what will happen that day because every day comes with some challenges and many, many

Sean Cleary is the editor-in-chief for The Dakota Student. He can be reached at [email protected]