Bishop moving forward after first semester as Engineering dean

Opus Dean Robert Bishop of College of Engineering sits down and discusses his first semester as dean, and his goals for the future. Photo by Brittany McGrail / Brittany.mcgrail@marquette.edu

As OPUS Dean of Engineering, Robert Bishop’s first semester on the job took him from Chicago to Dallas, from Washington state to Washington D.C. to Silicon Valley and back to Milwaukee.

Now, fretting about his office in Haggerty Engineering, he’s preparing to leave once again for a meeting in Rochester, N.Y.

“It’s been a busy week,” Bishop said in an interview. “For that matter, it’s been a busy semester. But I’m enjoying every minute of it.”

Bishop arrived on campus last August to take over the post from former dean Stan Jaskolski, now retired. Already a professor for 20 years and a department chair at the University of Texas at Austin, Bishop saw the Marquette position as a great opportunity.

“I hit the ground running,” Bishop said. “From an administrative side of things, I pretty much knew what to expect. But the biggest thing was acclimating to the Marquette culture.”

But it didn’t take him long to fit right in.

“It wasn’t hard to spot the obvious passion that the students, faculty and alumni have for Marquette and education,” Bishop said.

Alumni relations are a large part of Bishop’s job as dean, and his experiences in his first semester tell the same story.

“I traveled from the East Coast to the West and everywhere in between,” Bishop said. “And what I found is that our graduates are very successful and moving into positions of leadership at a lot of high-profile companies.”

But it’s not all about the alumni to Bishop. The students are still one of his top priorities.

“Engineering education is evolving,” Bishop said. “One of my big interests is seeing where it’s headed, and at Marquette there’s an emphasis on educating the student as a whole, which is what we strive to do in engineering.

“It’s not all about math and physics, but also about possibly foreign languages and history. To engineer solutions to the world’s problems, which is our ultimate goal, we need a well-rounded student.”

Alan Hay, a junior in the College of Engineering, likes what Bishop has done so far.

“He’s definitely made an impact,” Hay said. “The college is going in the right direction.”

And to educate students capable of solving global issues, the college must have the resources to do so. That’s where the Discovery Learning Complex comes in.

The long-awaited opening of the $100 million building is slated for August 2011.

“We are beyond excited for the opening of the DLC,” Bishop said. “Phase I will be completed by August and it’s very exciting to be that much closer to occupying a facility of such capabilities and advanced technology.”

Students are also excited about the prospects of using the DLC, like Logan Stephens, a junior in the College of Engineering.

“There’s a lot to be excited about when the DLC opens,” Stephens said. “All the brand new labs and equipment is going to be great to work with.”

The DLC is being built in two phases. The $50 million needed for Phase I has been locked down, and Bishop said he has in the range of $20-25 million already secured for Phase II.

Phase I is the lower and ground levels, which feature the discovery learning labs and classrooms.

Phase II involves building floors 2, 3, and 4, dedicated to researching sensors, human performance and water quality, respectively. The Phase II completion date is not set, but it is hopeful that it will be done within a year of the DLC opening.

One problem concerning the DLC is the shortage of funds, mainly for Phase II. As it turns out, Bishop’s cross-country traveling has not all been for naught.

“As I travel, I sense an optimism (about the economy) that wasn’t there before,” Bishop said. “We can change engineering education with the DLC, and that really sparks people’s interest and passion for what we’re doing to become a leader.”