Kenneth T. Christensen Named Armour College of Engineering Dean



By Mary Ceron-Reyes

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Illinois Institute of Technology has announced that Kenneth T. Christensen will join the university this year as the new Carol and Ed Kaplan Dean of Armour College of Engineering. He will provide leadership and support to advance knowledge and inspire service to society through interdisciplinary research, innovative scholarship, and purpose-driven learning experiences at Armour College.

Christensen is currently the Viola D. Hank Professor and chair of the University of Notre Dame’s Department of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering, with a joint appointment in the Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering & Earth Sciences. He will commence his new role as dean of Armour College on December 1, 2020.

“We look forward to working with Ken as we build upon the legacy of student success at Armour College of Engineering,” says Alan W. Cramb, Illinois Tech’s president. “We thank Natacha DePaola for her leadership, vision, and impact on our Illinois Tech community during her term as dean.”

“Ken is a world-class academic leader with a proven track record in innovation, collaboration, and a passion for student success—a perfect fit for Armour,” says Peter Kilpatrick, Illinois Tech’s provost and senior vice president for academic affairs. “With his strong and principled leadership, I look forward to this next chapter in Armour’s storied history.

Christensen highlights student success as central to the mission of Armour College and one of its strategic priorities, along with mission-driven interdisciplinary research and educational initiatives across the university. He believes that Armour College can play a defining role in cross-institute initiatives in an effort to help advance sustainable solutions to society’s most pressing challenges.

“I’ve always admired and appreciated the excellence of Illinois Tech’s Armour College of Engineering,” says Christensen. “I’m very excited to soon be a part of that tradition and to help forge its next phase of impact and prominence in service to humanity in collaboration with its outstanding students, faculty, and staff.”

Christensen cites the dedication to providing holistic training and growth among the institution’s key strengths, including an emphasis on integrating students in research at the undergraduate level; providing hands-on learning experiences for students to learn practical, workforce-relevant skills; as well as blending innovation and entrepreneurship into the institution’s educational and research missions.

Christensen aspires to build upon Illinois Tech’s focus on hands-on learning by continuing to cultivate industry partnerships to help promote learning experiences and degree programs that are highly experiential and align well with workforce needs. He is also dedicated to supporting the innovative and impactful research of Armour’s faculty and students aimed at addressing the challenges of tomorrow. In support of these goals, Christensen wishes to foster collaborative mentorship and development within Armour College to facilitate the long-term success of students, faculty, and staff, an initiative he also prioritized at Notre Dame.

“Illinois Tech is well-positioned to be a driving force in Chicago’s continued rise as a global technology and innovation hub,” says Christensen. He is excited to amplify Armour’s interdisciplinary approach to training the next generation of engineering leaders and to advancing discovery and technology innovation, supported by a commitment to access, diversity, and excellence.

“Society’s challenges are inherently interdisciplinary, and solutions must account for not only technological considerations but also social, economic, and legal ones,” says Christensen. “The best solutions to problems will come about when a diverse set of individuals, perspectives, and expertise come to the table to solve them.”

Christensen previously served as the assistant dean for faculty development and a provost fellow at Notre Dame. He has also been active in college- and university-level initiatives focused on cultivating industry partnerships to enhance educational and research opportunities and spur regional economic development.

Prior to Notre Dame, Christensen spent more than 15 years as a doctoral student and then as a faculty member at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He received a B.S. degree in mechanical engineering from the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, an M.S. in mechanical engineering from Caltech, and a doctorate in theoretical and applied mechanics from the U of I.

In addition to authoring 190 peer-reviewed journal articles and conference proceedings, Christensen is a fellow of the American Physical Society, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Christensen’s research expertise focuses on experimental fluid mechanics, with an emphasis on flows central to a range of energy, environmental, and geophysical applications.

Photo: New Armour College of Engineering Dean Kenneth T. Christensen