Dean Liesl Folks

Published May 22, 2019

Dear University Community,

I am writing to share with you that Dean Liesl Folks has informed me of her plan to step down as dean of the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS), effective July 26, 2019, in order to become senior vice president for academic affairs and provost at the University of Arizona. An excellent dean, Liesl has advanced each of UB’s teaching, research, and engagement missions, leaving the school well-poised to build on this success for years to come.

Since Liesl joined UB as dean in 2012, SEAS has undergone tremendous growth, including the addition of more than 75 faculty members and 2,700 students. Liesl led SEAS in creating a strategic plan that aligns the school’s vision and goals with UB’s institutional priorities, promotes a culture of research excellence and impact, and advances educational excellence and innovation. Externally, Liesl has enhanced alumni relations and improved school communications with all stakeholders.

Liesl is dedicated to attracting and retaining world-class faculty and to enabling their success. Under her leadership, the school significantly improved its faculty development and mentoring programs and worked with the Office of Research Advancement to accelerate faculty funding success. In addition, the school introduced a robust internal awards system and increased the number of named professorships. This internal recognition has led to a significant increase in the number of external awards SEAS faculty have received.

A national leader and powerful advocate for diversity in STEM fields, Liesl led the creation of the school’s first diversity plan and the development of a culture of inclusive excellence. In order to attract and retain more women in STEM fields, in partnership with the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS), Liesl created the Women in Science and Engineering program and she serves as principal investigator of the NAVIGATE Project, supported by the National Science Foundation. Beyond UB, Liesl helped spearhead an initiative through the American Society for Engineering Education in which more than 150 engineering deans committed to increasing diversity and inclusiveness within their schools. She also launched several initiatives to promote K-12 STEM education in Western New York. As a result of these efforts, under Liesl’s leadership, SEAS has increased the number of women faculty and students and more than doubled the number of underrepresented minority faculty and students.

A deep believer in interdisciplinary collaboration to solve the world’s grand challenges, Liesl has been dedicated to building partnerships with other UB schools, and she encourages SEAS faculty to participate in cross-disciplinary and university-wide initiatives to make innovative and impactful research, education and engagement contributions. As a result, SEAS faculty provide leadership for UB RENEW, the UB Artificial Intelligence Institute, the Stephen Still Institute for Sustainable Transportation and Logistics, the Institute for Computational and Data Sciences, the Institute of Bridge Engineering, and two of the Communities of Excellence – Sustainable Manufacturing and Advanced Robotic Technologies and Global Health Equity. SEAS faculty also participate in The Genome, the Environment and the Microbiome Community.

Liesl has been committed to building educational programs that align with students’ and society’s needs. Under her leadership, the school launched two new departments – the unique, interdisciplinary Department of Materials Design and Innovation, which was created in partnership with CAS, and the Department of Engineering Education, which aims to advance teaching and learning in engineering and applied science disciplines. In addition, the school introduced a variety of new degree, dual-degree, and certificate programs in areas that include data sciences, clean energy, the internet of things, transportation, manufacturing engineering, and blockchain.

Liesl joined UB from Hitachi Global Storage Technologies, where she led the development and delivery of new media advanced technologies to the marketplace. An internationally recognized expert in nanotechnology and magnetism, Liesl served as president of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Magnetics Society and currently serves as chair of the congressionally mandated panel for the Quadrennial Review of the National Nanotechnology Initiative by the National Academy of Sciences. In 2013, she received the AVS Excellence in Leadership award, a national honor for mentoring science and engineering students.

For more information, please see the UB Now story.

Liesl has been an exemplary dean whose strong and positive leadership has advanced the missions of the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and our university. Colleagues, please join me in thanking Liesl and wishing her continued success at the University of Arizona.  

In the coming weeks, I will appoint an interim dean to serve while we conduct a search for the next dean of the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.



Charles F. Zukoski                                                                                        Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs