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College of Engineering leadership announcement

Dear faculty, staff and students,

It is with mixed emotions I share that Peter Nelson, currently serving in his 17th year as dean of the College of Engineering, has informed me of his plan to return to the faculty, effective Aug. 16, 2024. It has been an honor to work with Dean Nelson over the years and to observe firsthand his tremendous dedication and leadership. I am very grateful that he will continue to serve as dean as we conduct a national search for his replacement.

In his 35 years of service to UIC, Dean Nelson has been an impactful collaborator and results-oriented leader. First joining UIC as an assistant professor of computer science in 1988, Dean Nelson founded the UIC Artificial Intelligence Laboratory in 1990. During his career, he has been the recipient of $63 million in external grants, including over $45 million as principal investigator. He served as the inaugural department head of the UIC Department of Computer Science from 2001–07.

Under his leadership of the College of Engineering, first as interim dean in 2007, then as permanent dean starting in July 2008, the college has thrived. His many strategic accomplishments as dean include:

  • The 2011 strategic realignment of bioengineering/biomedical engineering under the College of Engineering and the College of Medicine, which was the first of its kind at UIC. This initiative led to the largest gift in college history, resulting in UIC’s first department naming, the Richard and Loan Hill Department of Biomedical Engineering.
  • Continuous student enrollment growth, increasing from 2,705 students in 2007 to 6,220 in the fall of 2023, and an increase in underrepresented students from 21.8% to 33.6%.
  • Continuous improvement of the retention and graduation rates of engineering students to consistently be among the highest of any UIC college.
  • Increasing the number of PhD graduates annually from 52 at the beginning of his deanship to 88.
  • A dynamic and productive faculty that has grown from 124 to 217 and includes 47 new NSF CAREER award recipients, 96 faculty members named as fellows in their professional societies and 89 university-level teaching award recipients.
  • An increase in research grant awards by 41% over the last five years.
  • Strong relationships with the dean’s external advisory board, whose past and present members have given more than $25 million during his deanship. This fruitful collaboration led to the 2013 establishment of the first and only guaranteed paid internship program for undergraduate engineering students. Dean Nelson’s stewardship also resulted in a highly successful IGNITE campaign of $48 million, 20% over the goal.
  • A 10-year 2025 strategic plan that has resulted in building the Engineering Innovation Building and the first state-appropriated academic building on the east side of campus, the 127,000-square-foot Computing Design Research and Learning Center building, scheduled for completion in spring 2024. CDRLC notably includes 14 general purpose classrooms, which is a great addition to the campus teaching and learning efforts.

These accomplishments are extraordinary and position us well as we launch a national search for a new dean of the College of Engineering, whom we expect to appoint Aug. 16, 2024. This search will garner widespread interest, and Dean Nelson’s leadership will be an incredible asset as we search for his successor. Please join me in thanking Dean Nelson for his 17 years of service to the College of Engineering and in wishing him well as he prepares for his transition to the faculty.


Karen Colley
Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs