Seely Named Dean of Sciences and Arts

By Marcia Goodrich | Published

Bruce Seely, chair of the Department of Social Sciences, has agreed to serve as dean of Michigan Technological University's College of Sciences and Arts, effective Aug. 1.

“Bruce is an outstanding scholar and educator, but perhaps the greatest strength he brings to the dean’s position is his understanding of the University and its people,” said President Glenn D. Mroz. “The college has grown significantly in size and stature under Dean Seel, and we're confident that the college will continue to flourish. The people of the college play a key role as Michigan Tech focuses on being a national technological university. Bruce is eminently qualified to lead the sciences and arts faculty and staff as we implement the goals of the strategic plan.”

Seely was offered the position after an extensive search led by Mark Gockenbach, chair of mathematical sciences. “Bruce is a distinguished scholar and respected academic leader, and we are fortunate that he has agreed to focus his considerable talents and energy on moving the college forward in the coming years,” said Gockenbach. “I would also like to extend my congratulations and gratitude to Max Seel for the terrific job he has done during his years as dean.”

Seely came to Michigan Tech’s Department of Social Sciences in 1986 from Texas A&M University, where he was an assistant professor of history from 1981 to 1986. He became department chair in 2002.

From 2000 to 2002, he also served as program director for science and technology studies in the National Science Foundation’s Directorate for Social, Behavioral, and Economic Studies.

He is the founding co-editor in chief of Comparative Technology Transfer and Society, a journal published by Johns Hopkins University, and was secretary and newsletter editor for the Society for the History of Technology.

He has an MA and a PhD in the History of Technology from the University of Delaware, and a BA from St. Lawrence University, in Canton, N.Y.

A leading expert on the history of technology and education, Seely has published extensively in a variety of fields, including the American highway system, nanotechnology and engineering education, technology transfer, and rail transportation. As the US interstate highway system marked its 50th anniversary in 2006, Seely gave many presentations and interviews on the system’s history, including lessons to be learned from its successes and failures. He addressed the National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission of the U.S. Department of Transportation as it considered transportation planning for the next 50 years.

“The hardest adjustment in becoming dean will be giving up most of my work as a scholar and researcher,” said Seely. “But this transition is also full of opportunities, and I feel prepared for them. I study how the sciences work, and by that accident of preparation I understand the world of most of the people in the college.”

Seely expects to continue the work of Dean Seel, who encouraged the growth of research and new degree programs within the college.

“While it would be difficult to overstate the historical importance of engineering at the University, Michigan Tech is becoming more than an engineering school,” he said. “Every unit in the College of Sciences and Arts is positioning itself under the technological university umbrella.”

While the College of Sciences and Arts once primarily supplied required courses to engineering students, its faculty now focus more on research and graduate education, as well as on undergraduate education within their departments.

“We all need to be concerned about teaching, to be professionally active, and to support grad students through funded research,” Seely said. “We all need to be teacher-scholars.“

A key element will be outside funding. “It won’t be easy,” he said. “There are significant resource needs, and not much money is available from the state. We are counting on external funding to found new programs, and we must approach these investments carefully. We have to be targeted. The sciences and arts are critical to broaden the base of the University.”

Seely brings a valuable skill set to the deanship, said Provost Lesley Lovett-Doust. “Bruce’s energy and understanding of the many disciplines across the University will be a great asset,” she said. “I know he will work well in the dean team and will be a strong, persuasive representative of his departments as he works to advance the college.”

“Constructive collaboration across the disciplines, colleges, schools and the research and support areas will secure, for the whole University, a permanent place in the US News Top 50 public universities,” she added.

Lovett-Doust also expressed appreciation for Seel’s long tenure leading the college. “Max is a dean of great intellect, charm, wit and balance,” she said. “He has shepherded the College of Sciences and Arts thought many changes, with attention and commitment to each and every department, and yet has always been a citizen first and foremost of the University. We are sure to draw on his talents in support of the Michigan Tech’s strategic development, but we also know he is very excited to be returning to his research lab and home discipline of physics.”

“I’ve been fortunate,” Seely said, “first by following Terry Reynolds as chair of social sciences, and now Max, who has done so much to promote the college.

“There are really good people in all the departments, and the College of Sciences and Arts is amazingly diverse compared to the other units,” he said. “I’m looking forward to helping the college reach its true potential.”

The College of Sciences and Arts includes the Departments of Biological Sciences; Chemistry; Cognitive and Learning Sciences; Computer Science; Exercise Science, Health and Physical Education; Humanities; Mathematical Sciences; Physics; Social Sciences; and Visual and Performing Arts.

Michigan Technological University is a public research university, home to more than 7,000 students from 54 countries. Founded in 1885, the University offers more than 120 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in science and technology, engineering, forestry, business and economics, health professions, humanities, mathematics, and social sciences. Our campus in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula overlooks the Keweenaw Waterway and is just a few miles from Lake Superior.