CSE Dean Mos Kaveh in front of the big wooden chair

Q&A with the new CSE Dean

Kaveh looks back at the past and sets his sights on the future

Mos Kaveh was named dean of the University of Minnesota College of Science and Engineering, effective June 11. He had previously served as interim dean since January.

Kaveh has served in various roles in the College of Science and Engineering for more than 40 years. Before serving as interim dean, he served as associate dean for research and planning. Prior to that, he was head of the University of Minnesota Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering from 1990-2005. Kaveh joined the University of Minnesota electrical and computer engineering faculty in 1975.

In this Q&A, Dean Kaveh talks about his 40+ years with the college and his vision for the future of the college.

What are the biggest changes you have seen in your 40+ years with the college?

When I first came to the University of Minnesota as a faculty member in 1975, this was a commuter campus where people came and went only for classes. Today, our students are much more tied to campus through student groups, research, entrepreneurship opportunities, and other experiential learning opportunities. This has created a vibrant community that has helped us to attract top talent and increase our graduation rates to new highs.

We’ve also been able to attract a more diverse student population. This year, our class of first-year students will have the highest percentage of women ever and is one of the most ethnically diverse. Our employers need a diverse workforce who have different ways of thinking to solve today’s grand challenge in medicine, energy, and technology. We also have worked hard over the last decade to enhance student advising and support, and improve educational and research facilities, but we still have a long way to go.

Why have you stayed all these years?

Minnesota is home for me. I’ve lived here longer than anywhere else in my life. The opportunities drew me here, but it has been the people who have kept me here. It’s always been a positive place to be, and people are willing to work together. Minnesota is also a special place in that our College of Science and Engineering programs have such strong collaborations with the faculty and students in medicine, business, agriculture, and the liberal arts. This creates new and exciting opportunities that keep people like me wanting more.

What does it feel like to lead the college after all of these years?

I’ve essentially grown up here and am honored to be given the opportunity to lead this college. I’ve worked closely with great deans in the past, and now I look forward to continuing to move our college forward and create new possibilities.

What do you think is the college’s most important strength?

Our college is very unique in the way we combine science, engineering, and mathematics. No other peer research university has that combination all within one college. We were STEM before that term even existed. This provides us with the opportunity to do things differently than our peers. In industry, scientists and engineers work side by side, just like they do here. We’re providing those interdisciplinary opportunities for students, which helps them to be better prepared for life after graduation.

What are the biggest challenges facing the college?

While we are grateful for the support we get from the state, we’ve become increasingly dependent upon tuition dollars as the percentage of funding from the state has decreased. We also have seen increased competition for federal research funding. It’s very difficult to balance our need to increase funding sources while focusing the time and attention on our primary mission to educate the next generation of scientists and engineers.

What is your vision for the college’s role in our high-tech economy?

By growing our college, we have a great opportunity to be part of the engine that drives Minnesota's economy. Minnesota has truly been a miracle state when it comes to the STEM economy. Despite the relatively small population, distance from major technology hubs, and cold winters, our state can boast of a remarkable history creating and nurturing homegrown Fortune 500 companies—many in technology. But, I am concerned that the state’s momentum may have slowed. The Twin Cities failed to even make the first cut for Amazon’s second headquarters. The media said that the reason was that there was not enough technology talent to meet the workforce demand.

This is a wake-up call for our entire state. The business community, state leaders, and the legislature must acknowledge the problem and recognize that the College of Science and Engineering can and should be a key piece of the solution for providing that top echelon of the high-tech workforce.

Historically, about 75 percent of our graduates stay in Minnesota and fuel our state’s economy. Yet, the size of most of our science and engineering programs are small in comparison to our peers, limiting the state’s ability to meet the workforce needs of our increasingly technology-dependent economy. We need to grow our programs. Now is the moment for us to make that case to the legislature—our state’s economy depends on it.

What role can philanthropy play in helping you achieve your vision?

We can’t achieve our vision alone. We are so grateful to our alumni and corporate donors who have supported us in the past. However, continued private support is needed to attract and retain top student and faculty talent, strengthen the pipeline of future students, and provide the facilities needed for world-class research and education. While funding from the legislature is absolutely critical, support from our generous donors, industry partners, and alumni volunteers is what gives us the margin of excellence for which we strive.