Dr. Prabhat Hajela has decided to step down as Provost of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute effective December 31, 2022, and return to the Department of Mechanical, Aerospace, and Nuclear Engineering faculty.
As Provost and Chief Academic Officer for almost 11 years, Dr. Hajela has been responsible for all academic programs at the Institute and, in collaboration with the Vice President for Research, has worked to strengthen the research mission of the Institute. Dr. Hajela played an integral role in developing and implementing The Rensselaer Plan 2024, which included a strategic focus on building new academic and research programs, renewing faculty in new and emergent areas of research and scholarship, and innovative approaches to enhancing the student experience. Dr. Hajela oversaw a stronger integration of academic and student life programs focused on student success and worked closely with the Division of Student Life to implement Clustered Learning, Advocacy, and Support for Students (CLASS). In addition, he led the development and implementation of The Arch, a signature restructuring of the academic calendar to accelerate student development and growth. Dr. Hajela has overseen the design and launch of several new graduate and undergraduate academic programs and has played a vital role in launching many new research initiatives.
Dr. Hajela previously served as the vice provost and dean of undergraduate education, and administrative dean of the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences. Since joining Rensselaer in 1990, he has touched the lives of generations of students and given guidance to scores of faculty members through his work as an academic and administrative leader. As vice provost and dean of undergraduate education, he was instrumental in helping Rensselaer advance its leadership position in undergraduate education. The Undergraduate Plan, which he developed under The Rensselaer Plan, led to the strengthening of the undergraduate research program (URP and SURP), new international education and research opportunities for Rensselaer students through partnerships with international universities, and the establishment of the first living and learning community at Rensselaer – Vasudha – focused on sustainability and the environment. Dr. Hajela developed and implemented the co-term program that provides Rensselaer undergraduates opportunity for a seamless transition to graduate education. In 2007, he led the establishment of the Rensselaer Center for Open Source Software (RCOS), which today empowers students to contribute their coding talents to developing open source solutions to real-world problems.
Dr. Hajela, an expert in computational approaches to complex system analysis and design, has published over 300 papers and articles and is an author/editor of four books in these areas. He has held editorial assignments and served on the editorial boards of several international journals. He has conducted research at NASA's Langley and Glenn Research Centers and the Eglin Air Force Armament Laboratory and worked at the Boeing Company as the Boeing-A.D. Welliver Fellow in 1995.
Dr. Hajela has been active in several national and international organizations. He is a past vice president of the International Society of Structural and Multidisciplinary Optimization and a past chair of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) Aerospace Division, an organization that serves over 15,000 ASME members with interests in aerospace engineering. In 2003, Dr. Hajela served as a Congressional Fellow responsible for Science and Technology Policy in the Office of U.S. Senator Conrad Burns (R-MT). He worked on several legislative issues related to aerospace and telecommunications policy, including the anti-SPAM legislation (CAN-SPAM) that was signed into law in December 2003. Dr. Hajela has served on different National Academies panels related to aerospace and aviation research, including the first Decadal Survey of Aeronautics. He currently serves as the National Academies Technical Assessment Board Chair for the Army Research Laboratories.
In 2004, Dr. Hajela received AIAA's Biennial Multidisciplinary Design Optimization Award. He is a Lifetime Fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA), a Fellow of the Aeronautical Society of India (AeSI), and a Fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME). Dr. Hajela received his undergraduate degree in Aeronautical engineering in 1977 from the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur. He received master's degrees in aerospace engineering from Iowa State University (1979) and mechanical engineering from Stanford University (1981). He was awarded a Ph.D. in aeronautics and astronautics from Stanford University in 1982 and did postdoctoral training at the University of California, Los Angeles, before joining the University of Florida as a faculty member in 1983, where he was promoted to associate professor in 1987. He was recruited to Rensselaer in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering in 1990 and promoted to full professor in 1992.
While I will miss Dr. Hajela’s counsel as provost, I can appreciate that after serving as provost for almost 11 years, particularly through a pandemic, returning to the faculty to teach and conduct research becomes very appealing. In my brief time of working with him, I have been impressed with his thoughtfulness, wisdom, and dedication to RPI. We are fortunate to have had him serve as provost.
Dr. Hajela will be on administrative leave during 2023 and will return to the faculty as the Hamilton Distinguished Educator in the Department of Mechanical, Aerospace, and Nuclear Engineering.
I plan to appoint an acting provost while the Institute conducts a national search to name a successor.