Chris Swan stepped into his new role as associate dean of the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Citizenship and Public Service on Feb. 1, succeeding former associate dean Miriam Nelson.
Swan explained that he assumed this position after working at Tufts for 21 years first as an assistant professor in the department of civil and environmental engineering, then serving as the department chair and later as the associate dean in the School of Engineering for undergraduate curriculum development.
Swan said he was incredibly excited to take on his new role at Tufts.
“When I officially started [Feb. 1], I had that kid-in-the-toystore kind of feeling,” he said. “For me, it was a shining moment where I had a willingness and desire to make [Tisch] a cornerstone for Tufts…It feels great to be involved in this over the last week, and getting to see the impactful work of Tisch on the community. Meanwhile, I am also in touch with the School of Engineering, and am looking forward to maintaining a connection with them in the future as well.”
Late last year, Nelson announced that she will be taking a new opportunity as deputy chief sustainability officer and director at the University of New Hampshire (UNH) beginning in March, according to a Dec. 3 UNH press release.
According to Dean of the Tisch College Alan Solomont, following this development, Tisch College began looking for people at Tufts who would be suitable to take Nelson’s position. Ultimately, Tisch College settled on Swan, who was well-suited for the role based on his previously demonstrated commitment to Tisch College and his expertise in service learning, Solomont said.
“Chris is an expert and believer in the value of service learning,” he said. “He knows Tufts, knows Tisch and has the perfect combination of skills, values and commitment.”
Solomont explained that Swan has had a long history with Tisch College. The new associate dean has been associated with Tisch College since its inception in 2000 and, during his time at Tufts, he has also been involved in other positions across campus pertaining to education, research and community engagement. Swan was among the very first Tisch College faculty fellows, Solomont said.
“He was a member of Tisch College, and had a secondary appointment here for many years,” Solomont said. “Swan leads quite a number of programs here including Engineers without Borders.”
Solomont believes that because of Swan’s previous experiences at Tufts, he is respected by both the faculty at Tisch and at the engineering department.
Swan said that in his new role, he is looking to help further develop Tisch College’s mission and values. He emphasized the importance of student engagement at Tisch College.
“Their feedback on how the process can be changed or improved here at Tisch is extremely valuable,” Swan said. “I look forward to having more in-depth discussions with students in the future … It is a good way to learn about what is happening around Tisch by gaining different inputs and ideas and therefore to make [Tisch College] a better place … for the Tufts community.”
According to Solomont, Dean of Engineering Jianmin Qu also thought of this appointment as a great way to solidify the relationship between Tisch College and the School of Engineering.
Gabrielle String, a Ph.D candidate in Mechanical Engineering, explained that she first met Swan while conducting her master’s research on Engineers Without Borders programming, the group Swan advises. String said she thinks that Swan’s appointment as associate dean is a “great step for both him and Tisch College.”
“Dr. Swan helped to advise an Active Citizenship Summer International project that I worked on a few years ago, and also helped advocate for a project in our department to pair graduate students with local high school science classrooms,” String told the Daily in an email. “I’ve always admired Prof. Swan’s advocation for student learning through service programs, and think his work in this area is so critical, particularly for engineers, who by definition will become public servants.”
String said she had a very positive experience working with Swan as an engineering student.
“From my time working with the Engineers Without Borders team, I remember that Chris was always good about giving students their space to problem solve and innovate on their own, and was very supportive of the team taking ownership of their projects,” she said.
String explained that she’s watched Swan speak at a number of engagement events for Tisch College, and has found that people unfamiliar with Swan’s work were still very excited about what he said about service learning, engineering and developing responsible and engaged engineers.
“For the five years that I have been here at Tufts, I’ve known Chris as a proponent of Tisch College and of getting students in engineering and graduate students involved in the programs at Tisch,” String said. “I’m excited to see how he helps to lead Tisch’s programming and develop new visions for the impact that Tisch has on both the Tufts community and the communities in which Tufts serves.”