In a monumental hiring for the historic technical institute, NYU’s Tandon School of Engineering hired its first female dean since the school’s founding, under a different name, in 1854. Hired last spring, Jelena Kovačević is now presiding over her first week of classes as dean.
Kovačević is the first successor to Katepalli Sreenivasan, who served as the president of NYU-Poly during the 2014 merger between NYU and Polytechnic University and as dean when the school was renamed to Tandon in 2015.
“All of us together — students, faculty, staff, board, Brooklyn partners, other NYU schools, alums, friends — form one big puzzle,” Kovačević told WSN. “It will be our collective goal to work on it and build the school into the image we envision.”
Tandon’s faculty members share an optimistic outlook on the new hiring.
“I think that organizations are built around great people and here you have the dean that already has experience starting up a company — we have a great entrepreneurial mindset here at Tandon,” said Ryan Hartman, an assistant professor in the department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering. “I think it’s clear that she is a strategic and visionary leader, and her scholarly accomplishments are something to look up to for faculty members.”
This enthusiasm seems to have spread to the school’s student leaders as well.
“I’ve heard she is a big fan of puzzles and has goals of connecting all the dots that make up our Brooklyn campus and partners,” President of Tandon Undergraduate Student Council Flo Tong said. “I’m really excited to see how she will put the puzzle together and guide us to be a leading force.”
Prior to joining NYU, Kovačević led Carnegie Mellon University’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, where she was known for her openness in engaging with students and faculty outside the classroom. Tying together her eagerness to interact with students and her love of puzzles, she has hosted puzzle nights with dinner, once spending over four hours with students to solve a 1,000 piece-puzzle.
She has spoken highly of the school’s Brooklyn location in the Tech Triangle of New York City, as well as the geographical advantages of being in a diverse city. She has emphasized the importance of closing the gap of gender representation in the field of engineering.
“Diversity nurtures innovation; research shows that diverse groups perform better than homogenous ones,” Kovačević said. “That naturally means that there is no one definition of what it means to be an engineer. I want girls and boys of all races, ethnicities, sexual orientation to believe they can succeed. Tandon, situated in the heart of Brooklyn, together with the entire NYU, are already leaders in this arena.”
Email Kenneth Jung at [email protected].