From Western Carolina University:
CULLOWHEE – James Zhang, dean of Western Carolina University’s Kimmel School of Construction Management and Technology since October 2012, will be stepping down from the post in May to become provost and senior vice president for academic affairs at Kettering University in Flint, Mich.
Zhang will be joining another former Kimmel School dean, Robert McMahan, who is serving as Kettering’s president. After McMahan’s departure in summer 2011, Zhang served as interim dean of the Kimmel School until his appointment as permanent dean in fall 2012.
Kettering University, formerly General Motors Institute, is known for its top-ranked undergraduate programs in engineering, mathematics, science and business.
“Kettering is getting a proven leader with an extensive track record in the field of engineering education and project-based learning,” said WCU Provost Alison Morrison-Shetlar. “James is leaving the Kimmel School stronger than he found it. The school is well-positioned for the future, with rising student enrollments, the expansion of the engineering program to the Biltmore Park facility, and the strengthening of partnerships with community colleges across Western North Carolina.”
Morrison-Shetlar said a national search for a new dean to lead the Kimmel School will begin immediately.
Under Zhang’s leadership, WCU’s Kimmel School won approval in February 2012 from the University of North Carolina Board of Governors to offer the bachelor of science degree in engineering, a strategic step in the university’s efforts to help meet the needs of WNC business and industry. The stand-alone BSE program, which began in the fall of 2012, developed from a bachelor of science degree in electrical engineering (the BSEE) that WCU had offered jointly with UNC Charlotte since 2004.
The N.C. General Assembly appropriated $1.4 million to WCU last year for the expansion of its undergraduate engineering program to Biltmore Park Town Square, located in the fast-growing corridor between Asheville and Hendersonville, to help meet increasing industry and business demand for a highly qualified workforce.
Zhang joined the WCU faculty in 2003 with more than 10 years of industry experience in electrical engineering research, development and management, and was named associate dean in 2008. From 2009 to 2010, he also served as interim head of the Department of Construction Management.
Zhang holds a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering, master’s degrees in telecommunications and electrical engineering and a doctorate in electrical engineering. During his tenure at WCU, he has generated more than 50 publications. He also holds seven U.S. and international patents.
The Kimmel School is home to the Department of Construction Management, Department of Engineering and Technology, and Center for Rapid Product Realization. The “engagement arm” of the Kimmel School, the Rapid Center provides technical assistance to companies, organizations and entrepreneurs through faculty expertise and hands-on learning activities for students.