Peña-Mora has earned an international reputation for his scholarship, teaching, research and engineering innovations, as well as hands-on leadership in managing major university engineering programs at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the University of Illinois, where he has served as associate provost.
Feniosky Peña-Mora, the next dean of the Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science, speaks about what attracted him to Columbia. (4:09 / Español)
“Columbia is fortunate to welcome such a remarkable new engineering dean at a time when the school is becoming ever more central to the university’s mission—from its interdisciplinary work with our medical center in the life sciences and our Earth Institute in climate science to its pioneering service-learning curriculum that is a national model for civic engagement between university and community,” said Bollinger. “He will be an outstanding leader for our School of Engineering and Applied Science.”
Peña-Mora comes to Columbia after six years at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign where he has served as the Edward William and Jane Marr Gutgsell Endowed Professor in the civil and environmental engineering department, a center affiliate at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications and a faculty affiliate at the Beckman Institute.
“I was so impressed with the energy and enthusiasm I saw among the faculty, students, staff, and alumni/ae at the school,” said Peña-Mora. “It was clear to me that the SEAS leadership at Columbia has built a very strong foundation in recent years, well positioning the school to move to the next level in terms of its impact on the university, the local community, the nation and the world. Many important innovations have taken place at SEAS over its long history and continue to take place today. It is exhilarating for me to see how committed Columbia’s students, faculty, staff, alumni/ae and university leadership are to an even more exciting future.”
Peña-Mora is a graduate of Universidad Nacional Pedro Henríquez Ureña in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. He earned his masters and doctorate in civil engineering from MIT. Before arriving in Illinois in 2003, he worked at MIT as assistant professor and associate professor of information technology and project management in civil and environmental engineering.
His research interests include information technology support for collaboration in preparedness, response and recovery during disasters involving critical physical infrastructures. He is also involved in change management, conflict resolution, and processes integration during the design and development of large-scale civil engineering systems. His research has been groundbreaking in the field of construction engineering and management.
“I am very pleased that Feniosky Peña-Mora will be the next dean of the Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science,” said Provost Alan Brinkley, who led the search process. “He is a distinguished civil engineer with broad administrative experience at the University of Illinois, and he will bring vision and enthusiasm to this distinguished school. In welcoming Dr. Peña-Mora, I also want to express our gratitude to Gerald Navratil for his dedicated and skillful leadership as acting dean of SEAS over the last two years.”
As a scholar, Peña-Mora is the author of more than 100 publications in refereed journals, conference proceedings, book chapters and textbooks on computer-supported design, computer-supported engineering design and construction, as well as project control and management of large-scale engineering systems. His publication, “Design Rationale for Computer Supported Conflict Mitigation,” received the 1995 award for best paper published in the Journal of Computing in Civil Engineering. He is also the author of the influential 2002 textbook, Introduction to Construction Dispute Resolution.
He is the holder of the 1999 National Science Foundation CAREER Award and the White House Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers. In 2007, he won the Walter L. Huber Civil Engineering Research Prize of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE). In 2008, he was recognized with the ASCE Computing in Civil Engineering Award for outstanding achievement and contribution in the use of computers in the practice of civil engineering.
“I am excited that Feniosky Peña-Mora will be dean of the engineering school, because I know that the school will benefit greatly under his leadership,” said Peter Valeiras, SEAS’09, who served with fellow student Amy Betz on the search committee. “He has many great ideas for the future of the school, specifically on the relationship between faculty and students. That will create a stronger sense of community and family within the school.”
Peña-Mora’s experience reflects the practical, problem-solving mission of engineering and applied science. He is a professional engineer registered in the Dominican Republic and has been a key figure in a variety of international projects. He has founded high-tech startup and consulting companies and has worked with both the construction industry and governments in various countries, including Argentina, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and Japan.
“Feniosky Peña-Mora is the leader we have been looking for,” said Andy Gaspar, SEAS’69, who served on the search committee. “He will be an energetic and articulate advocate for our school and for the pivotal role of engineering in today’s society. SEAS is in great shape, both academically and financially, and provides an ideal platform for the new dean to implement his vision and grow Columbia’s standing as a world class engineering school in one of the world’s great universities.”
Although a native of the Dominican Republic, coming to upper Manhattan as a Columbia dean represents a homecoming for Peña-Mora, who spent part of each year while growing up living with family in Washington Heights. He first learned to speak English in his early twenties by attending English-as-a-second-language community programs at Teachers College, Riverside Church and other organizations in the city.