Dartmouth Engineer - The Magazine of Thayer School of EngineeringDartmouth Engineer - The Magazine of Thayer School of Engineering

Q&A: Joseph Helble: Parting Words

Joseph Helble
Joseph Helble. Photograph by Robert Gill.

For 13 years, the faculty, staff, and students who have passed through Thayer School of Engineering have called Joseph Helble “dean.” This past October, he took on a new title—Provost Helble. Just weeks before moving down the road to his new office in Parkhurst Hall, Helble spoke with Dartmouth News. The following is an excerpt from the conversation.

How would you like the beginning of your tenure to unfold?
I think over the course of the first several months I’m going to be doing a lot of listening. I’ll meet with as many people from as many different parts of the campus as I possibly can to understand their goals, their hopes, and their aspirations for their particular area. And to get their thoughts and creative ideas about what the administration can be doing to make Dartmouth an even more vibrant and creative and incredible place.

You’ve been around students here for 13 years. How would you describe them?
I’ve interacted with students who were not just engineering students but many, many students who are here at Dartmouth to study something else and will take an engineering course or two along the path to their degree. What I find over and over and over again is that they are incredibly hard-working and intellectually curious. That’s one of the things that I find most inspiring about being at Dartmouth: to be surrounded by young people who are idealistic, open-minded, motivated to go out and try to change the world, and really want to draw from every aspect of this broad and rich institution. We’re really privileged to work with them and I am reminded of that every day I come to campus.

As you leave the west end of campus for an office in Parkhurst, what are you most proud of having accomplished at Thayer?
First and foremost, I’m proud of the fact that this community has managed to accommodate increasing demand from students and incredible growth without losing the sense of community that defines the Thayer School. I’m incredibly proud of the fact that Thayer became the first major research institution in this country to award more engineering degrees to women than to men. That’s something the engineering educational community has been pushing toward for decades and made incredibly small progress toward achieving. Yet, here we were able to do it in 2016.

I’m proud of the fact that this community has embraced entrepreneurship not just as a core value but recognizes that this is, in fact, what society rightly expects from engineering academic institutions—that we won’t just study technology but that we will create and invent technologies that have the possibility to go out and change the world. Over 40 percent of our tenure-track faculty have started companies based on their work. I’m convinced that that is, without question, the highest level in the country.

At Dartmouth, there is an openness to connecting with, speaking with, interacting with anyone. A great example is the partnership between athletics and engineering around the development of the Mobile Virtual Player, the MVP robotic tackling dummy. I’ve taken great pleasure the past couple of years in speaking to my fellow engineering deans from around the country and asking them, “How many of you can say that your students and faculty and staff have developed a technology that’s actually changing the way the game, any particular game, is played?”

I promise you that no other engineering dean has had a student project debut on late night television with Stephen Colbert. Of that, I am absolutely certain. 

—Susan J. Boutwell

Categories: The Great Hall, Leadership, Q&A

Tags: leadership, Provost

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