Meet Our New Dean: Dr. Daniel Pack Begins Leading Baylor University's School of Engineering and Computer Science
When the search committee for the position of Dean of the School of Engineering and Computer Science (ECS) was receiving nominations, Interim Dean Erich Baker recommended Dr. Daniel Pack, who begins his new leadership role at Baylor on June 1, 2023.
“At every stage along the way, Dr. Pack has been extremely productive,” said Dr. Baker. “He's grown programs, he's increased enrollment, he's involved in community engagement. I am confident that he's the right person for this job.”
Dr. Pack joins Baylor after seven and a half years as Dean of the College of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at the University of Tennessee Chattanooga. Previously, he was Mary Clarke department Chair and Professor of Electrical Engineering at the University of Texas San Antonio (UTSA). He became a full professor at the U.S. Air Force Academy and holds electrical engineering and engineering science degrees from Purdue, Harvard, and Arizona State.
Below is an edited transcript of Dr. Pack's meeting with the ECS Board of Advocates in Spring 2023.
Dean Daniel Pack
I’m thrilled and honored to have been chosen to serve as the next Dean of the School of Engineering and Computer Science at Baylor. Thank you for this opportunity to introduce myself and to share a brief, preliminary plan I have as the next Dean.
I was born and raised in Seoul, South Korea, and came to United States as a teenager, becoming an adopted son of this country, which I'm very proud of. We moved to Phoenix, Arizona, and I went to Shadow Mountain High School before going on to Arizona State University, to Harvard University, and then to Purdue University to finish my formal academic education.
After Purdue, instead of pursuing a career in industry as I had planned, I became aware of an open faculty position at the Air Force Academy by chance. After an on-site interview, I fell in love with the place and started my academic career as an educator – preparing and educating future Air Force officers of the nation. It was at the Academy that I honed my teaching skills and studied the science of learning – the principles of learning sciences.
It was also at the Air Force Academy where I started my major research endeavor in cooperative unmanned aerial vehicles and founded the Academy Center of Excellence for Unmanned Aircraft Systems Research. After 17 years at the Academy, it was a difficult decision to leave, but because I was interested in administrative leadership, I moved to the University of Texas, San Antonio as Chair of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. After three and a half years in San Antonio, I again moved to Tennessee and have been serving as Dean of College of Engineering and Computer Science for the last seven and a half years.
There are three big decisions that made me who I am today. In reverse chronological order, the first decision was made after getting my doctoral degree. Instead of going to work in industry, I chose to pursue a career as an educator at the Air Force Academy. The second one was made by my parents who decided to leave everything familiar to them – language, culture, friends, and families in Korea – to move to the United States, making me an American. The third one was made a long time ago when my great-grandfather decided to become a believer, creating a family environment that influenced me to become a Christian.
The primary reason for choosing Baylor is I strongly subscribe to the important role a Christian mission-based university plays in our society. Having a very strong tradition of offering world-class academic programs also attracted me to Baylor. Finally, it's a tremendous opportunity to grow the School – not just for the sake of growing – but to make real, world-wide impact.
Strategic Vision, Operational Philosophy, and Data-driven Decision Making
For any organization, people are its most important asset. That is why I believe in collective wisdom to move an organization forward, and I will seek for people-centered interactions to advance the mission of the School. I will also practice transparency and fairness to build trust.
Having a clear vision for School of Engineering and Computer Science is vital for its success. That is why one my first tasks at Baylor will be working together with members and friends of the School to review the existing one and update it to develop a strong vision. A vision points everyone in the same desired direction, and associated strategic and implementation plans will move the School toward reaching its goals.
To reach those goals, establishing a positive culture and cooperative environment is necessary. A culture of trust and freedom to explore without fearing failure is indispensable. In addition, support in the form of resources for students, faculty, and staff is essential to be successful. Building partnerships in the Waco area, in Texas, in the United States and throughout the world will also be vital for the success of the School. I have learned over the years that you can't accomplish significant work alone but only as a team.
Finally, I'm a data-driven person; I need to see data before making decisions. As time is limited and we need to move things forward, however, we must stop collecting additional data at some point and make decisions. Adaptively finding that balance between time for data collection and analyzing the data will be important in making meaningful progress. In supervising people, I’m not interested in micromanagement, but by holding people accountable and being a people person, I believe we can achieve great things together.
Initially, I will measure our School’s success by assessing five areas: quality of academic programs, student experience, research productivity, community partnership, and reputation. I will continue to ask questions such as: What are we doing to ensure that we have world-renowned academic programs? Are our students having valuable learning experiences that are impacting their lives and careers? Do we have the right infrastructures and processes to support research programs for world-wide impact? Do we have strategic, local, state, national, and international partnerships in place? How is our School viewed by others around the nation and the world?
My Initial Plan
The first three months will involve time of listening to people to identify the strengths and weaknesses of the School along with potential areas for growth. The time will be also spent getting to know the partners we already have and to consider others who we should invite to join the School. I will also seek to fully understand existing resources.
After the listening sessions and collecting ideas, my priority is to review the existing strategic plan of the School and develop an implementation plan with metrics and timelines so that we will be able to track our progress.
Balancing Academics with R1 Research
Balancing great teaching with great research is an issue many people ponder and sometimes struggle to reconcile. For me, education and research go hand-in-hand; they are not mutually exclusive. Some say that if you do great research then you tend to neglect the academic programs. I think the reverse is true. When you have great researchers in the faculty, they can enhance our student experience by bringing state-of-the-art technology and ideas to classrooms.
When viewing the landscape of higher education, Baylor stands out. Not many people get the chance to live and work in a place with such potential for meaning and impact. In the weeks, months, and years ahead, I look forward to working diligently – to help fulfill Baylor’s mission while advancing our School of Engineering and Computer Science.
ABOUT THE SCHOOL OF ENGINEERING AND COMPUTER SCIENCE AT BAYLOR UNIVERSITY
Baylor’s School of Engineering and Computer Science (ECS) has been preparing its students for more than 25 years as innovators for worldwide impact by training graduates for professional practice and responsible leadership with a Christian view. Students can choose from majors including bioinformatics, computer science, electrical and computer engineering, general engineering and mechanical engineering. ECS also offers graduate programs in all areas of study within the School. We stand out from the crowd through Christian commitment, a strong community, expert accessibility, leading practical experience and teamwork. Visit the ECS website to learn more and follow on Facebook and on Instagram.
ABOUT BAYLOR UNIVERSITY
Baylor University is a private Christian University and a nationally ranked Research 1 institution. The University provides a vibrant campus community for more than 20,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating University in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 100 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 12 nationally recognized academic divisions.