Clemson graduate returns to lead industrial engineering department
CLEMSON — A Clemson University graduate is returning to his alma mater to lead the industrial engineering department in the midst of an enrollment boom and a $10-million expansion of its home building.
Cole Smith begins as department chairman July 1. It’s the latest move in a career that has included research in flight planning, radiation therapy treatment, national defense and NCAA tournament planning.
Smith graduated from Clemson in 1996 with a Bachelor of Science in mathematical sciences with an emphasis on computer science.
He most recently was professor and interim chairman of the industrial and systems engineering department at the University of Florida.
Smith said that he considered other administrative jobs around the country, but settled on his alma mater.
“As my wife and I started looking at this, one of the things we said was, ‘Look, if I’m going to pour this much of my heart and soul into a place, I’d rather it be Clemson,’” Smith said.
Scott Mason has been serving as the department’s interim chairman since Anand Gramopadhye vacated the position in July 2013 to become dean of the College of Engineering and Science.
Gramopadhye said that Smith brings a wealth of leadership experience to his new job and that his scholarly work is highly respected in the industrial engineering community.
“He is an exemplary researcher and leader,” Gramopadhye said. “Most importantly, he is excited to be a Clemson Tiger and has a great vision for the future of industrial engineering at Clemson University.
“I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge the role played by Dr. Scott Mason as the interim chair during this transition, a role executed flawlessly. I thank him for his leadership.”
Smith said that he will be handed a department with talented, energetic faculty and financial tools that will open the door to more growth.
“One of the things that is so special about Clemson is how they treat the student body and surrounding community,” he said. “It’s like a large family. You’re not just a number.”
Smith takes over the department as global demand for industrial engineers grows.
The number of undergraduate, master’s and doctoral students enrolled in industrial engineering at Clemson has grown more than 50 percent in five years.
Construction on Freeman Hall, the department’s home, will begin soon. A three-story addition will include new offices, conference rooms and a 108-seat auditorium.
The university is putting up the money for the addition, and the industrial engineering department expects to pay it back with proceeds from an online program that offers a Master of Engineering in industrial engineering with an emphasis on supply chain and logistics. The program, which is supported by Fluor Corp., now has about 120 students and is expected to grow to 160.
Industrial engineers design systems that deliver products and services efficiently and effectively. Graduates are in high demand in a wide variety of businesses, ranging from banking, health care, construction and tourism to the traditional areas of production, warehousing and distribution.
Smith received his Ph.D. in industrial systems and engineering from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in 2000. He was an assistant professor at the University of Arizona from 2000 to 2005 before moving to the University of Florida as associate professor.
Smith said he plans to live in Clemson with his wife, Cindy, and their three daughters, ages 5, 7 and 9.