By: MARISSA GRIMSLEY – Staff Writer
As students begin to transition into the new school year, the Office of the Provost and the School of Engineering will similarly transition into new leadership.
In decisions that became effective July 1, Dr. Paul Benson became Provost, the university’s senior academic administrator, and Dr. Eddy Rojas became the Dean of the School of Engineering.
Rojas, who is originally from San Jose, Costa Rica, is a new addition to the university. Rojas said he received his undergraduate degree and licensure from the University of Costa Rica in civil engineering.
“After my undergraduate studies, I became a faculty member at the University of Costa Rica. I taught there for a couple of years. I then decided I wanted to further my graduate studies, so I studied at the University of Colorado Boulder. I got my master’s degree in civil engineering, my Ph.D. in civil engineering, and a master’s in economics,” Rojas said.
After he received his Ph.D., Rojas became a faculty member of civil engineering at the University of Buffalo. He then moved to the University of Washington where he received tenure and became Graduate Program Coordinator and the Executive Director of the Pacific Northwest Center for Construction Research and Allocation.
After nine years, he continued on to the University of Nebraska where oversaw the schools of engineering at both the Omaha and Lincoln campuses.
Rojas said he learned of the position because he was contacted about the opening.
“The person for the search firm the university hired contacted me and they told me about this opportunity. They asked if I knew of anyone interested and the job was very attractive to me because I share the same values as the university, since I am Catholic.”
Benson, a Chicago native, has been a faculty member with UD since 1985.
The Provost’s education is in philosophy. He said he received his undergraduate from St. Olaf College and his Ph.D. from Princeton, both in philosophy. He then began teaching at Virginia Tech.
“At Virginia Tech I taught an engineering ethics course which helped me get my job at UD. I knew nothing about the class but I learned more about it as I taught it,” Benson said.
Benson said he taught for a year at the University of Vermont before taking a faculty position at the university. He said throughout his time at UD, he has been the CORE director and an instructor within the program, the chair of the philosophy department, and was Associate Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences before becoming the school’s dean, which he held until he took over as Interim Provost.
“Dr. Curran called me up and I was in New York City and getting on a train at Penn Station. He called and asked me to consider the position. He had already talked about it with the Academic Senate, the Board of Trustees and probably others before asking me,” Benson said.
Both Rojas and Benson said they are taking this time to listen to their faculty about what they want to see happen.
“Obviously there are many things I have to learn. I know a lot of the people involved with other schools, but I need to gain a better understanding of their schools. I still have a lot to learn so I can make informed decisions with them,” Benson said.
Rojas talked about taking this semester to listen to his faculty within his department to help formulate a plan.
Both Rojas and Benson said they are modeling their leadership off of important figures.
“I really like Pope Francis. I think that he is fantastic and I think he is the right example of humility and how we should behave. We should be humble, respectful and we need to understand the dignity of every human being. We collaborate and keep our mission front and center,” Rojas said.
Benson said his philosophy background informed his leadership models, looking to Plato and Aristotle.
“Aristotle began with commonly held opinions of people and would look around trying to anchor things like nature and society and good life in these opinions. On the other hand, Plato emphasizes in a different way, having high ideals and values that are often difficult or impossible to fulfill completely. I see both of these in my work.”