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Alumna Becomes First Female Dean

Leslie Lestinsky • DATE: July 24, 2018

“I’m fortunate I stuck with the rigor of graduate school at the University of Notre Dame. Now I look back, 12 years later, taking this dean position, and see the struggle was all worth it.” This is the reflection of Department of Electrical Engineering (NDEE) alumna Ying Shang who recently became the first female dean of the College of Engineering and Computer Science at the University of Evansville (UE). As she prepares to take office, her strategy as the new dean is not to impose her views, but to remove obstacles for students and faculty that keep them and the college from moving forward. She wants to take the time to hear from them what they need and she’ll work to get it done, offering support rather than dictating. While increasing enrollment is important, Shang believes it’s not everything. She wants to focus on quality of students versus quantity.

Her background is a mix of mathematics, art, and engineering. "These disciplines require a strong imagination. Electrical engineers create devices without moving parts and manifest activity with very little visuals. A good artist combines small but important details into one wholesome and profound statement,” explained Shang. She chose to specialize in control engineering because it is all about putting your imagination to work with different components in the system to achieve desired performance.

Shang credits a large part of her success to the mentorship of the NDEE faculty. “The faculty provided a great support system for graduate students. When Shang was a teaching assistant for NDEE professor Ken Sauer, she observed his dedication and the ample amount of time, attention and care he gave his students. That inspired her to be an educator like him. “She was probably one of my best teaching assistants,” recalled  Sauer. “I'm not surprised she's having a successful career as an educator.”  

Ying Shang PhD graduationHer research involved discrete-event systems, max-plus linear systems, and hybrid systems with applications in queueing networks, manufacturing systems and transportation networks. Shang was advised by the late Professor Michael Sain. They worked on Sain’s fundamental, founding theory for systems using only positive numbers. Shang reflects on the impact Sain had on her, “I knew that I wanted to be an educator and help more people pursue engineering. However, I did not have the vision, experience, and confidence then to even imagine that I could become an academic administrator in the future. Before my graduation, professor Sain, with his warm-hearted, Midwest roots said to me, ‘Ying, I think you have the potential to become a dean someday.’ I was not aware of the potential he saw in me. I will be forever grateful for his mentorship and guidance.” 

Shang’s first job after graduation was as an assistant professor at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. Her thesis work landed her two visiting professor positions in France at the University of Angers, working with Professor Laurent Hardouin. There, she worked on max-plus linear systems with applications to high-throughput screening systems in drug discovery. In 2015, she became chair of the Department of Electrical and Computing Engineering at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville (SIUE).

Introduce a girl to EngineeringDuring her time as chair, Shang created the Introduce a Girl to Engineering event and was also faculty advisor for SIUE’s Society of Women Engineers Student Chapter. Her leadership led to the recruitment of more female engineering majors. She also secured ABET accreditation, established industrial partnerships and created a process of launching entrepreneurial incubator/accelerator for startups while at SIUE.

Shang is optimistic about her new role as dean. “I’m coming in with fresh eyes,” explained Shang. Her goal is to facilitate synergy between UE faculty, staff and students so that the college can grow its capabilities. That growth will enable recruitment of high quality students and the synergy will open access to external funding and other resources to support the needs of the university and community.

Being from the state in China of Confucius, Shang gleans from her Chinese roots for wisdom. “We all have finite time to do infinite good. The more you do good things, the more long-lasting impact you make and you leave a legacy. You didn’t waste your time, life or resources. Don’t worry about short-term losses and gains, in the end, being a kind and decent person is the most important thing in life.”