April 29, 2009

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By Tom Evelyn

LEWISBURG, Pa. – Jim Orbison, who has served as dean of the College of Engineering for the past nine years and who has led a marked expansion and strengthening of the college’s academic programs and facilities, has announced his decision to step down from his post effective Aug. 1.

"Jim has built and guided one of the country's best engineering programs and helped ensure that it will have continued success in graduating engineers who are ready to address the challenges of the global community," said Bucknell University Provost Mick Smyer. "We look forward to his continued engagement in the life of Bucknell and to his returning to his first love of working daily as a faculty member with students.”

A 1975 Bucknell graduate, Orbison taught for 18 years in the college before accepting the appointment as dean in 2000. Following a sabbatical year upon his stepping down, Orbison will return to the faculty in the fall of 2010 to resume his teaching responsibilities.

New degree programs
During Orbison's tenure as dean, the College of Engineering has added four new degree programs, beginning with the biomedical engineering degree and master of science degree in environmental engineering in 2003. In 2006, the college added a five-year dual-degree engineering and management program, and last year it introduced the bachelor of science in computer engineering degree.

In 2004, the college opened the Breakiron Engineering building, increasing the space available to the college by 45 percent.

Since Orbison became dean, applications for admission to the college have increased by 75 percent. As a result, the college now offers admission to fewer than one out of every three applicants.

Women engineers
At the same time, under Orbison’s leadership, Bucknell has markedly increased the percentage of women engineering students it enrolls. Today, 27 percent of Bucknell's engineering students are women, compared to a national average of 17 percent. In addition, the number of tenure-track women engineering faculty at Bucknell has increased almost five-fold since 2001. Women now represent 25 percent of Bucknell's engineering faculty.

Orbison has guided the college through successful ABET accreditation reviews in 2002-03 and this past fall that included approval of the biomedical engineering program in its first review cycle. It is expected that the college will again receive a full six-year accreditation as a result of the most recent review.

"We’ve re-affirmed our commitment to providing undergraduate engineering education of the highest quality," Orbison said, reflecting on his tenure as dean. "We’ve re-affirmed our mission statement, but most importantly, we act on it."

630 engineering majors
The College of Engineering has more than 60 faculty members and 630 engineering majors in computer science and biomedical, chemical, civil and environmental, electrical, and mechanical engineering. The college consistently is ranked among the top engineering programs in the country by U.S. News & World Report.

The University will announce in the coming days plans for seeking nominations for an interim dean.

Contact: Division of Communications