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Rutenbar Named Senior Vice Chancellor for Research at University of Pittsburgh

5/3/2017 2:56:22 PM Colin Robertson, CS @ ILLINOIS

After serving as Head of the Department of Computer Science for nearly eight years, Rob A. Rutenbar will leave Illinois after the close of the semester. Rutenbar has been named by the University of Pittsburgh as its senior vice-chancellor for research, a newly created position responsible for leading that university’s long-term strategy for research and innovation. An interim department head for CS @ ILLINOIS will be announced in the near future.

CS Department Head Rob A. Rutenbar
CS Department Head Rob A. Rutenbar

At Illinois, Rutenbar, who is also an Abel Bliss Professor of Engineering, has led a CS program that is ranked fifth in the nation by U.S. News and World Report and is home to 85 faculty researching and teaching on a vast range of topics. The department is also seeing rapidly rising demand, with more than 5,000 undergraduate applications submitted for fall 2017 admissions. Current enrollments exceed 2,400 students—including a fall 2016 freshman class in Engineering that is 46% female, a record high.

“Rob is an incisive and determined colleague who is willing to question and change the status quo,” said Andreas Cangellaris, Dean of the College of Engineering.  “He will be missed. I am certain that he will be a great asset to Pitt, as he has been here at Illinois.”

Rutenbar’s tenure as CS @ ILLINOIS department head has coincided with a time of tremendous growth for the discipline as well as new opportunities in higher education. By leading much of the University’s early engagement with Coursera, he helped make Illinois a leader in the Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) movement; over 2.5 million registered learners have chosen Illinois MOOCs (nearly 1 million of those in CS).  Illinois now offers three degrees on the Coursera platform, including the Master of Computer Science in Data Science, which was launched last spring.

Building on CS’s long partnership with the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences in offering undergraduate degrees in Mathematics & CS and Statistics & CS, Rutenbar spearheaded the creation of the CS + X family of collaborative bachelor’s degree programs. CS + X allows students to pursue a program of study combining a strong grounding in CS with technical or professional training in the arts and sciences.

Initially launched with four degrees (CS + Anthropology, CS + Astronomy, CS + Chemistry, and CS + Linguistics), eleven additional CS + X programs are currently under discussion. These include CS + Crop Sciences, in the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences, as well as CS + Music, in the College of Fine and Applied Arts, which were both approved by the Faculty Senate earlier this year. Each is awaiting review by the University’s Board of Trustees and the Illinois Board of Higher Education.

Several of Rutenbar’s other initiatives included establishing the CS @ ILLINOIS Alumni Awards, launching CLICK! Magazine, celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Department and 10th anniversary of the Thomas M. Siebel Center for Computer Science, relaunching Gems Computer Science Camp for Girls, providing better career paths for specialized research and teaching faculty, and boosting the number of tenure-track faculty from 53 to 70—including doubling the number of tenure-track women.

One of the newer faces is Founder Professor of Engineering Tandy Warnow, who is Chair of CS’s Internal Advisory Committee. “Rob is a tremendous leader, constantly driving innovation in the department. His infectious energy and enthusiasm, along with the vibrant and open atmosphere that he has helped to foster within the department, are some of the big reasons why I joined Illinois,” said Warnow. “We’re sorry to see Rob go, but happy that he has such a tremendous opportunity at Pitt.”

Previously, Rutenbar was a faculty member within Carnegie Mellon University’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering for 25 years.  In 2002, Rutenbar was named Carnegie Mellon’s Stephen J. Jatras Chair in Electrical and Computer Engineering, an endowed professorship position he held until leaving that university in 2010.

As an entrepreneur, Rutenbar founded the tech firms Neolinear Inc. and Voci Technologies, Inc. in 1998 and 2006, respectively. He was the founding director for the Center for Circuit and System Solutions, a multi-university consortium that focused on next-generation chip design challenges. The recipient of 14 U.S. patent grants, his endeavors have been funded by such notable entities as AT&T, Google, IBM, the National Science Foundation and the Pennsylvania Infrastructure Technology Alliance. Rutenbar is the author of eight books and 175 published research articles.

In recognition of his career accomplishments, Rutenbar was elected a fellow of the Association for Computing Machinery. He has twice won the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers’ coveted Donald O. Pedersen Best Paper Award. He was recognized with distinguished alumnus awards from both the University of Michigan and Wayne State University.

Rutenbar earned his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering at Wayne State University in 1978. He earned master’s and doctorate degrees in computer, information and control engineering at the University of Michigan in 1979 and 1984, respectively.