University of New Mexico Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs James Holloway has named Dr. Donna Riley as dean of the UNM School of Engineering, effective April 1, 2023.

“UNM is thrilled to have Professor Riley joining us as Jim and Ellen King Dean of Engineering and Computing,” said Holloway. “Donna is an exemplary leader who is deeply committed to supporting student and faculty success, and I am confident that she will be a strong champion for the school of engineering, growing our impact in STEM education, research, and economic development within New Mexico.”

Donna Riley
Dr. Donna Riley

Riley looks forward to her new role at UNM and shared her excitement about the opportunity to work with students, faculty, staff and the people of New Mexico to advance the School of Engineering.

“UNM attracted my interest with its record of inclusive excellence and its clear vision for how New Mexico’s public flagship university can drive workforce development and economic opportunity in the state and beyond,” said Riley. “As an engineer, I know how our ability to dream, design, and develop can contribute to addressing critical community challenges.”

Riley, who will also hold the title of Professor Civil, Construction, and Environmental Engineering, was selected in a national search that culminated in a group of four finalist candidates who visited campus in late September and early October. She met with several institutional constituencies including students, faculty, staff, and alumni during open forums, giving the campus community an opportunity to engage and ask questions, as well as to provide feedback to the search advisory committee and to the provost.

Riley is currently Kamyar Haghighi Head and Professor in the School of Engineering Education and Professor by courtesy in Environmental and Ecological Engineering at Purdue University. Dr. Riley joined Purdue in 2017 from Virginia Tech, where she was professor and interim head in the Department of Engineering Education. From 2013-2015 she served as program director for Engineering Education at the National Science Foundation (NSF). 

Riley spent 13 years as a founding faculty member of the Picker Engineering Program at Smith College, the first engineering program at a U.S. women’s college. In 2005 she received an NSF CAREER award for developing critical pedagogies for engineering classroom implementations.

Riley’s research focuses on the integration of ethics, communication, social analysis, lifelong learning, and other critical capacities in the formation of engineering professionals. She is the author of two books, Engineering and Social Justice and Engineering Thermodynamics and 21st Century Energy Problems, both published by Morgan and Claypool.  She is the recipient of the 2016 Alfred N. Goldsmith Award from the IEEE Professional Communications Society, the 2012 Sterling Olmsted Award from ASEE, and the 2010 Educator of the Year award from Out to Innovate.

In her administrative experience, Riley has consistently brought innovation and inclusion to decision-making and problem solving. She has also pursued equity as a career passion and research area and applied that lens to advance the practice within the engineering field.

“Donna believes in taking on important challenges and empowering people in the engineering community to apply and create knowledge,” said Holloway. “She brings to UNM extensive experience as a strategic visionary, scientist and academic administrator.”

Riley earned a B.S.E. in chemical engineering from Princeton and a Ph.D. from Carnegie Mellon in Engineering and Public Policy. She is a fellow of the American Society for Engineering Education.

Riley fills the position held by Christos Christodoulou. Christodoulou, who has been dean since 2017, will continue as a distinguished professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the end of 2022. Charles B. Fleddermann, who has been associate dean for academic affairs and community engagement in the School of Engineering since 2002, will be interim dean from Jan. 1 until March 31, 2023.