USD Magazine Fall 2013


Chell Roberts brings a wealth of experience and enthusiasm to his position as founding dean of the Shiley-Marcos School of Engineering.

Founding dean has grand plans for USD School of Engineering [ a s p i r a t i o n a l ] Upward tra j ectory

ment into that of a nationally recognized and ranked school. Immediate plans include upgrad- ing student project and research space, hiring additional faculty and staff, and increasing the number of student scholarships to prospective students. While there’s plenty of work to be done, Roberts is convinced the foundational pieces are in place for future success. “The aspiration is to be the top engi- neering school in the region, and we’ll do that by making that delta difference in our students,” he says. “That means getting the most out of them; preparing them to become leaders who are sought out for their expertise and innovation.” Encouraging students to incorporate an outside-the-box approach to their studies and research work is nothing new for Roberts, who by his own admis- sion is, “an educator first and foremost, and always will be.” In his previous position as execu- tive dean and chair of engineer- ing for the College of Technology and Innovation at Arizona State University, he noticed a rift developing between what engi- neering students were learning in lectures and labs, and how they were applying that knowl- edge for the betterment of

by Mike Sauer


or as long as he can remember, Chell Roberts, PhD, has been a big fan of

chance to create something tre- mendously special,” he says. “For the past 25 years, the stu- dents and faculty here have built an exceptional department, and it’s my job to help take that to the next level. To do that, we need to be challenging ourselves to find ways to build for the future.” Thanks to the vision and gener- osity of Darlene Marcos Shiley, that future is now. Her transfor- mational $20 million gift enabled Roberts to begin the process of raising the profile of an already successful engineering depart-

ing. “I’d sit with these advanced mathematics books and pretend I could read them; understand the language they were speaking. I thought it was so cool.” With more than 40 years of experience as an accomplished educator and administrator in the field of engineering, it’s clear he still does. What’s also clear is that he couldn’t be more thrilled about the opportunity to chart the course of USD’s Shiley-Marcos School of Engineering as its founding dean. “The way I see it, this is a

numbers. While classmates were scaling jungle gyms and playing dodgeball at recess, a 10-year old Roberts would sequester himself in the library, poring over advanced algebra and calculus books in an attempt to understand all those strange symbols that were, for some unknown reason, so appealing. “You know, I can’t put my finger on why, but I was really interested in math as a kid,” he recalls, smil-

society and themselves. To help bridge the gap

between theory and practice, Roberts developed a curriculum that incorporated components of business management and


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