STEM Professional of the week

Dr. Feniosky Peña-Mora      
Columbia University

Dr. Feniosky Peña-Mora recently served as the 14th Dean of Engineering at Columbia University. He is one of the first engineering deans in the Ivy League from the Dominican Republic. He oversaw a budget in excess of $200 million, and had a college student population of 2,267 with 173 faculty. Columbia’s Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science (SEAS) has been consistently ranked among the top 20 Colleges of Engineering in the country.

Dr. Peña-Mora’s efforts to advance this mission continue to define the role of Columbia’s SEAS, specifically at an intersection of biological, physical, and digital disciplines he labeled “CyberBio-Physical™ Systems.” This new focus promises to facilitate innovative solutions to some of society’s most daunting engineering challenges, like managing and expanding energy and water resources in sustainable and cost-effective ways. He also instituted a “Rising Stars” strategy to attract and retain the best and brightest minds to Columbia’s SEAS faculty. And he established and nurtured a strong relationship between the school and the American Society of Engineering Education (ASEE), a relationship that will bring the prestigious ASEE Engineering Deans Institute to Manhattan in 2013.

Before joining Columbia University, Dr. Peña-Mora served as an administrator at the University of Illinois Urbana Champagne, where he was Associate Provost. As co-chair of the Illinois Chancellor’s Diversity Initiatives Committee, he coordinated faculty, staff, and students from diverse groups and backgrounds in creating Project 2012: Re-envisioning Diversity and Inclusion at Illinois Report, a five-year strategic plan to make Illinois a more inclusive and diverse academy. His initiatives helped increase the number of Hispanic faculty members at the university.

Throughout his career, Dr. Peña-Mora has solidified his reputation as an outstanding researcher, educator and academic leader. With 170 scholarly contributions in leading journals, conferences, and textbooks, his work has had a profound impact on the field of construction engineering and management worldwide. The range of honors to his credit is a testament to this impact. In 1999, he received the National Science Foundation’s CAREER Award and the Whitehouse Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers. In 2007 he received the American Society of Civil Engineers’ (ASCE) Walter L. Huber Civil Engineering Research Prize. And in 2008 the ASCE gave him their Computing in Civil Engineering Award for outstanding achievement in the use of computers for civil engineering. His selection as a member of the National Academies’ Committee on Advancing Productivity of the U.S. Construction Industry is testimony to the outstanding reputation that Dr. Peña-Mora has attained as one of our country’s premier civil engineers.

Dr. Peña-Mora has held positions at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications, the Beckman Institute, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Civil and Environmental Engineering Department, and visiting professorships at Loughborough University in Great Britain and at the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne in Switzerland.

Dr. Peña-Mora left the Dominican Republic for New York City 24 years ago unable to speak English. His sacrificed to pay for English classes, and he applied to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology less than a year later, where he earned a master’s and doctorate in civil engineering. He received his bachelor’s in science degree and graduated Magna Cum Laude from the Universidad Nacional Pedro Herníquez Ureña, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. Dr. Peña-Mora was acknowledged for his trailblazing efforts at the HENAAC Conference with the 2012 HENAAC Pioneer Award.

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