John D. Leonard II, Ph.D., formerly executive associate dean for finance and administration, has been promoted to executive dean of the VCU College of Engineering. Effective July 1, 2019, this promotion reflects Leonard’s expanding role both inside and outside VCU, allowing him to oversee day-to-day operations of the college while positioning Barbara D. Boyan, Ph.D., the Alice T. and William H. Goodwin, Jr. Dean of the College of Engineering to focus more on external initiatives such as fund raising and government relations.
How does this new role differ from that of Dean Boyan’s?
My role is more of the COO/CFO, while Dean Boyan serves as the CEO. My job is to support the dean, performing many of the administrative duties that might keep her from engaging with our stakeholders, and to serve as an internal focus for questions from staff.
Why did the college decide to create this expanded role at this time?
Richmond and the greater RVA area are very exciting places to be. Companies are excited to relocate their operations to the RVA region and the commonwealth as a whole. Ideas created by our researchers are being turned into companies, creating the need for highly skilled people to fill these jobs and convert these ideas into economic value. There is a tremendous need for more technically oriented college graduates – not just more engineers and computer scientists specifically, but more computer savvy graduates from all majors.
These external pressures are pushing the college to grow in the number of graduates we produce, in our course offerings and delivery methods to touch more working professionals and in the number of ideas and innovations we translate from the benchtop to the workplace.
The community and our stakeholders are demanding that we grow to meet these needs. To meet this demand — both in graduates and in new ideas — the college needs new resources from the commonwealth, from the university and from the community. The dean sees her responsibility as aligning the college to meet these external demands and communicating our resource needs to the stakeholders to ensure that we’ve got what we require to get the job done. This is a huge responsibility. My role was expanded to take on more of the internal responsibilities so the dean can focus on the external relationships, while still interacting with our students, faculty and staff on a personal level, something that is very important to her.
How have your responsibilities increased, including university-wide initiatives?
I coordinate special projects for the college and university, for example the Commonwealth Tech Talent Investment Program (TTIP). I represent the college on several university committees including the University Council, the HR Advisory Committee and the campus Parking and Transportation Advisory Committee [Leonard is a national expert in transportation engineering]. I represent the university on several external groups including the Community Transportation Advisory Committee for the Richmond Regional Planning District Commission, the Federal Demonstration Partnership and the Greater Washington Partnership CoLab initiative.
I oversee the finance and administrative functions of the college including the office of budgeting, strategic planning, finance and accounting, grants and contracts, human resources, marketing and communications and information technology. I support the other associate deans and department chairs and for fun, I dig through the campus databases trying to turn data into information. I’m also a professor in computer science, attend faculty meetings and mentor capstone teams.
What are your top priorities in this expanded role?
My number one priority is to make sure the dean has what she needs to do her job, whether that is time or money. My second priority is to make sure the departments and faculty have the resources (again, both in money and staff support) to accomplish their goals.
What would you like to add?
I’m very enthusiastic about our future. I’ve been here for three years this month (August). VCU Engineering is a very exciting and vibrant place to work. We’ve got a lot going on and we’ve got a lot going for us. I’m happy to be part of what we’re creating here!