New leader plans to take Glenn Department of Civil Engineering to greater heights
CLEMSON — A highly accomplished professor who plans to join Clemson University in August said the Glenn Department of Civil Engineering is close to top-tier status and that his goal will be to lead the department to greater heights.
Jesus M. de la Garza was introduced Wednesday as the new chair of the Glenn Department of Civil Engineering. He comes to Clemson from Virginia Tech, where he is the Vecellio Endowed Professor in Construction Engineering and Management.
Serving as department chair is a great privilege that comes with great responsibility, de la Garza said.
“I see the department on the verge of going to the next higher ground,” he said. “As the new chair, the responsibility is on my shoulders to continue the ascending path of the department. Of course, this is not a one-person process. A department chair will need the support of everyone — faculty, staff, students, alumni and friends.”
de la Garza said his vision is to not only produce graduates for the work force but to turn out proud, loyal alumni.
Part of what attracted de la Garza to Clemson is the focus of an endowment provided in 2011 by civil engineering alumnus Gerald Glenn and his wife, Candice.
The gift is helping Clemson sharpen the focus on the rebuilding of America’s infrastructure. The goal aligns perfectly with de la Garza’s thoughts on the topic, which he expressed in his 2016 TEDx talk, “America’s Lifelines,” he said.
de la Garza said he plans to work closely on his top priorities with Anand Gramopadhye, dean of the College of Engineering, Computing and Applied Sciences.
Those priorities include bridging faculty expertise gaps in pavement engineering and coastal engineering. de la Garza also plans to renew teaching laboratories, establish a Glenn Distinguished Lecture Series and work with the department’s faculty, staff, students and alumni to develop a strategic plan.
And de la Garza plans to organize the department around society’s grand challenges. He said those efforts will build on a departmental reorganization that started in 2017 with a $2-million grant from the National Science Foundation.
Robert Jones, executive vice president for academic affairs and provost, said that he looks forward to working with de la Garza.
“Dr. de la Garza brings to Clemson impeccable credentials, a wealth of experience and a strong vision for leading the Glenn Department of Civil Engineering into top-tier territory,” he said. “I wholeheartedly welcome him to the Clemson family.”
One of de la Garza’s many honors and awards came in 2014 when he was named a Distinguished Member of the American Society of Civil Engineers, the organization’s highest honor. He is also a member of the National Academy of Construction and a Fellow of the Construction Management Association of America.
de la Garza’s research focus is on project controls; construction safety; innovative project delivery mechanisms, such as flash tracking; and infrastructure asset management.
His research group worked with the Virginia Department of Transportation for many years and developed a mechanism to determine how well contractors were meeting performance targets on interstate maintenance, he said.
de la Garza is the editor-in-chief of the American Society of Civil Engineers’ Journal of Construction Engineering and Management.
He has served as a member of the board on Infrastructure and the Constructed Environment and as a member of the Defense Materials, Manufacturing, and Infrastructure Standing Committee, both of which are part of the National Research Council.
de la Garza has also served as director of the Civil Infrastructure Systems program at the National Science Foundation.
de la Garza has advised 14 doctoral students and 93 Master of Science students, while sponsoring 17 undergraduate research experiences.
He has co-authored more than 100 papers in refereed publications. While at Virginia Tech, he secured $14.5 million in sponsored-research projects.
de la Garza received his Master of Science and Ph.D. from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and his Bachelor of Science in civil engineering from Tecnológico de Monterrey in Mexico. He has held visiting professorships at Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden, Arizona State University and Georgia Tech.
Gramopadhye thanked all those who helped search for the new chair. They include a departmental committee of faculty and staff members, led by professor Abdul Khan. Gramopadhye also thanked Ronald Andrus, who served as interim chair during the search.
“Dr. de la Garza brings to his new job a wealth of experience in higher education and is nationally respected by his peers for his work in civil engineering and construction engineering,” Gramopadhye said. “He is a researcher and scholar par excellence. Dr. de la Garza is well positioned to take the Glenn Department of Civil Engineering to greater heights. I welcome him to Clemson and look forward to working with him.
“Further, the department and college are thankful to Gerald and Candice Glenn for their forward-thinking generosity, which resulted in the naming of the department.”
In his spare time, de la Garza likes to still his mind by listening to nature and to read. He plans to move to the Clemson area with his wife, Bertha, who is a Spanish instructor, and their beagle, Maya. The de la Garzas have two grown daughters, Lorena and Cecilia.