New College of Engineering Dean Envisions Growth, Positive Community Impact
When someone mentions “engineering,” or some variation of the word, it’s a given that when you try describing the field, it’s hard to narrow things down.
“When you look around you, everything in this room has been touched by an engineer… All of those pieces are engineered—your car, your home—it’s all around us,” said Dr. Lisa Zidek, the new dean of the Anderson University College of Engineering.
While Dr. Zidek is excited about the possibilities of the still-young College of Engineering, she envisions a program that prepares future engineering professionals who uphold Anderson University’s commitment to community by making a positive impact.
“The engineering creed talks about the benefit and safety and welfare of humanity. What better way to develop engineers into the people that we’re supposed to be as engineers? We’re able to bring that faith into what we do as engineers. It’s such an important part of everything we do,” she said. “I think this opportunity for the College of Engineering is amazing and allows us to really help develop students into engineers that can make a difference in the world.”
As the Anderson University College of Engineering looks to the future, including building a new home for its expanding programs, Dr. Zidek, who came to Anderson University June 1, is enthusiastic about how far the College of Engineering has come in just a few short years. She also points to relationships recently developed with engineering programs at institutions in Cameroon and Nigeria as exciting new opportunities for academic study, research, professional development and other mutually beneficial activities.
One strength of the College of Engineering programs is a curriculum that lets students dive in from their first day of class.
“You’re going to have an engineering experience every year; that is very different from many schools. Often as you’re in those first two years, you’re just going to those math and science and general education classes and don’t really get a feel for the career,” she said. “I think one of the most exceptional things about the AU program is that you’re in an engineering class every single semester and you’re working with those faculty every semester.”
When she was younger, Dr. Zidek didn’t really see herself entering engineering. In fact, she recalls that her entry into the profession was somewhat accidental.
“I was the student in high school who was good at math and science and they didn’t quite know what to do with me,” she said.
A first-generation college student, Dr. Zidek initially became a bioengineering major with the goal of preparing to enter medical school one day. That’s when she made a discovery.
“Once I got there, I found industrial engineering by accident (where my background really is) and I fell in love with it,” she said. “I am a systems thinker. I like looking at the big picture and figuring out how things work, make them very efficient and make them operational and logical—that’s a real strength of mine. I had never planned on grad school and kind of accidentally went to grad school and it just continued.”
Dr. Zidek earned her bachelor of science degree in industrial engineering and a master of science in mechanical engineering at Marquette University and also a master of science in industrial engineering and a Ph.D. in industrial engineering with a specialization in health systems management, both from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Dr. Zidek, who came to Anderson University after nearly a decade of serving as an associate dean of the U.A. Whitaker College of Engineering at Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU), has championed the cause of introducing students to engineering and other STEM-related fields in grades K-12. She enjoys the interactions she’s had in schools and also wants to see more females enter the profession she loves.
“I think having female role models come out there and say ‘you can do this… and it’s okay to get your hands dirty, take things apart and experiment.’ We can do this as well as any of our male counterparts,” she said. “God made all of us equally, so we can walk into that room and say ‘I’m a member of this team like anybody else.’”
Dr. Zidek is gratified to see that more girls participated in the 2023 Engineering Summer Institute, a camp for middle and high school students that has become more diverse each year.
The Anderson University College of Engineering provides a comprehensive engineering education that combines our liberal arts tradition within a Christian worldview. Students of the College experience the integration of faith and learning as the principles of engineering are taught within a Christian worldview. This is essential to the College’s mission as it nurtures students in their understanding and respect for God’s creation—and empowers them to transform the world in an ethical, moral and responsible manner.
Details about the Anderson University College of Engineering can be found online here.