Harvey Mudd Leader Named Next Dean of Pacific’s Engineering School

Elizabeth Orwin

Elizabeth Orwin will be the next dean of the School of Engineering and Computer Science at University of the Pacific

Elizabeth Orwin, leader of the renowned engineering program at Harvey Mudd College, will be the next dean of the School of Engineering and Computer Science at University of the Pacific.

Orwin, a biomedical engineer who is chair of the Department of Engineering and the James Howard Kindelberger Professor at Harvey Mudd, will start July 16 at Pacific.

Orwin has served as chair of engineering since 2014. She previously served as the college’s associate dean of research and experiential learning. 

“Elizabeth Orwin is an accomplished educator committed to excellence in undergraduate education and interdisciplinary problem-solving,” said Pacific Provost Maria Pallavicini. “Through her leadership and by working with our faculty, Orwin will ensure that our engineering graduates are prepared to address the problems of the future.”

The new dean, a graduate of Harvey Mudd College, joined the faculty there 20 years ago. Harvey Mudd is No. 2 in the nation among all engineering programs that do not grant doctoral degrees, according to U.S. News and World Report. The college also ranks No. 25 in the nation—and third in California—among liberal arts colleges.

“I’m really delighted that Liz is joining the University of the Pacific, even though we hate to lose her,” said Harvey Mudd College President Maria Klawe. “Liz is the ideal person for this role given her tremendous energy and strategic perspective, her experience with industry and innovation in interdisciplinary education and research, and her love for building.”

Orwin earned a BS in engineering in 1995 from Harvey Mudd, where she also served as student government president, before earning her MS and PhD in biomedical engineering from the University of Minnesota. 

After graduation, she worked for Gel-Del Technologies in St. Paul, Minnesota, working on the research and development of a novel protein matrix for wound-healing applications. Orwin continues to be an active researcher, focusing on tissue engineering. 

Last year, she was an American Council on Education fellow, a program that prepares participants for senior-level leadership positions in U.S. higher education. Her ACE fellowship was at the California Institute of Technology, where she worked closely with Cal Tech President Thomas F. Rosenbaum.

“With her lively intelligence, leadership skills and compassion, Liz is a wonderful fit to the dynamic environment of the University of the Pacific.” - Thomas F. Rosenbaum, President of California Institute of Technology

“Liz is a deeply devoted advocate for her students and a generous colleague who has a bold vision for the role of engineering in the academy and in society,” Rosenbaum said. “With her lively intelligence, leadership skills and compassion, Liz is a wonderful fit to the dynamic environment of the University of the Pacific.”

Orwin said she is excited by the opportunity to “join the Pacific family and work with dedicated colleagues in the School of Engineering and Computer Science to envision a future that prepares our students to tackle the really complex problems they will face.”

“I know I will learn from everyone in this wonderful community and I can't wait to get started," she said.

Across American universities, women remain significantly underrepresented among engineering school leaders. Only 17 percent of engineering deans and directors were women in 2020, according to the Society of Women Engineers.

At Pacific, Orwin will be the first woman to serve as engineering dean.

Pallavicini said Orwin will be “a dynamic role model for our female faculty and students.” Women will hold two-thirds of the deanships at Pacific.

The School of Engineering and Computer Science focuses on small learning environments and features a co-op learning program with more than 200 industry partners worldwide. The school offers majors in bioengineering, civil engineering, computer engineering, computer science, electrical engineering, engineering management, engineering physics and mechanical engineering.

Orwin will replace Steven Howell, who is retiring after eight years as dean.

“Liz Orwin’s energy, passion, creativity, entrepreneurial thinking and laser focus on students and their success make her the perfect match for University of the Pacific,” said Pacific President Christopher Callahan. “I am confident that, working with our great faculty, staff, alumni, industry leaders and supporters, she will take our School of Engineering and Computer Science to new heights.”

Orwin is the latest new member of Pacific’s leadership team.

Callahan joined the university nine months ago as president after 15 years as dean and vice provost at Arizona State University. Mary Wardell-Ghirarduzzi, vice provost for diversity at University of San Francisco, was named last month as Pacific’s inaugural vice president for diversity, equity and inclusion. Christopher Ferguson, an enrollment strategist from Occidental College, started in September as Pacific’s vice president for enrollment management. A new vice president for student life is expected to be announced soon.

Pacific, California’s first university with campuses in Stockton, Sacramento and San Francisco, is ranked as the No. 18 university in the West by The Wall Street Journal and Times Higher Education.