As dean of the University of Virginia School of Engineering and Applied Science, James H. Aylor has grown enrollment, added faculty, and increased research revenue. He has built new facilities and fostered a series of innovative partnerships with industry and government – successes that have helped improve the school’s stature on Grounds and nationally.
After a decade of accomplishment, he is ready to step down. Today, the University announced that Aylor will return to the school’s faculty when his second term ends in 2015.
“Jim Aylor’s dedication to the Engineering School has been remarkable,” President Teresa A. Sullivan said. “He has been a powerful advocate for science and technology because he understands that excellence in these areas is critical to the University’s future.”
Executive Vice President and Provost John Simon said computer science professor emerita Anita Jones, a member of the National Academy of Engineering, will chair the committee charged with conducting a global search for the next dean.
“The positive results of Jim Aylor’s tenure are visible across the Engineering School, from the remarkable success its graduates have in securing good jobs to modern facilities such as Rice Hall and more,” Simon said. “The foundation set for his successor is strong.”
The Louis T. Rader Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Aylor has always been closely associated with the Engineering School. His father was a member of what was then the Applied Mathematics Department within the School of Engineering – and Aylor holds bachelor’s (1968), master’s (1971) and doctoral (1977) degrees from the electrical and computer engineering department. In 1978, he joined the school as an assistant professor of electrical engineering, conducted cutting-edge research in computer design and development, and founded the Center for Semicustom Integrated Systems. He chaired the department from 1996 to 2003. He was appointed interim dean in 2004 and assumed his present post a year later.
“Personal experience convinced me that the key to the school’s future rested on people – students and faculty as well as alumni and industry partners,” Aylor said.
He started with faculty. As dean, he has worked tirelessly to secure funding for additional faculty positions and to attract the best possible candidates for these and replacement positions. In 2012-14, the school added 24 faculty members and is currently searching for an additional 16 professors across eight of its nine departments.
“We have taken the opportunity to rejuvenate the school and to build critical mass in a number of key fields,” Aylor said. “This has helped raise our profile and made us a more attractive collaborator.”
Research funding has doubled during his tenure, even as federal sources of research funding have declined.
To ensure the Engineering School made focused hiring decisions, Aylor and a team conducted a strategic planning initiative, which was concluded in 2011. The plan calls for the school to focus on societal challenges in sustainability, health, cyber and physical infrastructure, and personal and society-wide security.
Faculty growth also provided the cornerstone of Aylor’s efforts to meet increasing demand for the undergraduate program and enhance the graduate program. “It was important for my team to maintain the close faculty-student relationships that have always characterized the school,” he said. Undergraduate enrollment rose by one-third between 2005 and 2013 even as the number of applicants more than doubled. Thanks to more competitive admissions, the median combined SAT scores of Engineering School entering classes are now the highest of any school at the University.
Research funding secured by the faculty has also energized the graduate program. The school now has more graduate students than any time in its history.
“Our responsibility – and it’s one I feel deeply – is to provide an education that’s equal to the talents of our students,” Aylor said. Under his leadership, the school has expanded the engineering business minor, introduced an entrepreneurship minor and offered a teaching mentorship program for graduate students. In addition, it has greatly expanded its experiential learning program.
As an alumnus himself, Aylor has been notably successful in engaging the school’s graduates in supporting these initiatives. With their support, he opened the Rice Hall Information Technology Engineering Building, and Lacy Hall and the Ann Warrick Lacy Experiential Learning Center during his tenure.
Aylor has also has been a pioneer in forging innovative alliances with government agencies and corporations, which taken together have generated significant research support for the school, funded several professorships and provided exceptional learning and career opportunities for students.
Aylor played a pivotal role in founding U.Va.’s Applied Research Institute, which provides a conduit for government and business seeking to access University expertise and resources. He was also a driving force behind the formation of the Commonwealth Center for Advanced Manufacturing, a partnership that includes four universities, NASA, Rolls-Royce and 17 member companies. That collaboration and others led Rolls-Royce to designate the University of Virginia as a University Technology Center in April, one of three such partnerships the company has in the United States.
“Jim’s leadership has been transformative for the school,” said John DeMaso, president of the Engineering School trustees and former president of Northrop Grumman Sperry Marine. “His commitment and dedication have made a tremendous impact on the University of Virginia School of Engineering and its students. His vision and energy have led to improvements and growth in the school and have set the stage for future success.”