After driving 600 miles to come to Cookeville, Joseph J. Rencis will take the lead as Tennessee Tech University’s new dean of the College of Engineering.
Rencis comes to Cookeville from the University of Arkansas, where he was a mechanical engineering professor and chairperson of the department. He will take over for David Huddleston, who served as interim dean of the college. Huddleston will return to being the chairperson of the civil engineering department.
“I am looking forward to working at Tennessee Tech University since the focal point of the faculty and staff is students,” Rencis said. “My passion is to lead the College of Engineering to the next level of national prominence and excellence in education, research and outreach.”
In addition to his duties as dean, Rencis will hold the Clay N. Hixon Chair for Engineering Leadership and teach in the mechanical engineering department.
His appointment is effective Aug. 31.
Rencis holds a doctorate in civil engineering from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, and was a professor and director of engineering mechanics at the Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts before going to Arkansas. He has published more than 35 articles and 100 conference publications in the research areas of boundary elements, finite elements, multiscale modeling and engineering education. He has received $4.1 million in research funding from the National Science Foundation, NASA and industry. He serves as an associate editor of International Series on Advances in Boundary Elements and the Journal of Online Engineering Education.
Rencis has been recognized for his leadership, service and contributions to technical and education research as a fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineering and the American Society of Engineering Education. He has also received the ASEE New England section outstanding teacher award, ASEE mechanics division James L. Meriam service award and the ASEE Midwest section outstanding service award.
He has served in leadership positions at the regional and national levels. He has recently served as chairperson of the ASEE mechanical engineering department heads committee as well as the ASEE professional interest council III and is a member of the ASEE board of directors and its national nominating committee. He also serves as an accreditation evaluator for mechanical engineering programs. Rencis was an inaugural fellow of the Southeastern Conference Academic Consortium Leadership Development Program, which aims to help tenured faculty develop leadership skills.
At the University of Arkansas, Rencis collaboratively created a strategic plan that significantly impacted the national ranking of the department, which increased undergraduate enrollment by 33 percent, master’s enrollment by 50 percent and doctoral enrollment by 275 percent. He also secured a $1.5 million endowed faculty chair and three $500,000 endowed professorships. Under his leadership, department research expenditures increased more than 140 percent. He led and secured state support for an off-site junior-senior mechanical engineering degree program.
“I am looking forward to working with Dr. Rencis as he takes over leadership of our College of Engineering,” Mark Stephens, interim provost, said. “His knowledge and abilities make him a good match for TTU and I am sure he will be very successful in his new role.”
Rencis and his wife, Minerva, have a daughter, Christina, who is a sophomore at Boston University, majoring in film and television. Minerva is an elementary school teacher. They say they are looking forward to spending weekends exploring the Great Smokey Mountains and Nashville culture.