Alabama-Huntsville professor to take reins of WMU engineering college

Contact: Cheryl Roland
Photo of Dr. Houssam A. Toutanji.


KALAMAZOO, Mich.—Dr. Houssam A. Toutanji, professor and chair of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Alabama-Huntsville, will become the new dean this summer of Western Michigan University's College of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

The veteran academic leader and researcher will take on the mantle of dean at the start of the 2015-16 academic year July 1. An Alabama-Huntsville faculty member since 1997, Toutanji has been chair of his department since 2008 and has served since 2013 as associate dean for graduate education and research.

"Houssam Toutanji brings to the deanship a record of enormous accomplishment as an educator, researcher and academic leader," says Dr. Timothy Greene, WMU provost and vice president for academic affairs. "He will be a wonderful asset to our engineering college, of course, but also a wonderful addition to our business community."

Houssam A. Toutanji

Before joining the Alabama-Huntsville faculty, Toutanji held a four-year faculty appointment at the University of Puerto Rico-Mayaguez, and he held international visiting professor appointments at France's University of Cergy-Pontoise and Belgium's Ghent University. He also has served as a faculty fellow at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center and a post-doctoral fellow at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. An accomplished researcher in such areas as concrete and composite structures, he earned bachelor's and master's degrees from Northeastern University in 1985 and 1987, respectively, and a doctoral degree from Worcester Polytechnic Institute in 1992.

"There are many excellent opportunities to grow the academic and research enterprise in the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences at WMU, and I'm excited to be part of this endeavor," Toutanji says about taking on the new position. "This will be an exciting time for the engineering college to partner with local companies for the benefit of both the college and industry."

During his years at UAH, Toutanji won the UAH Alumni Association's Distinguished Faculty Award and the College of Engineering's Distinguished Faculty Award in 2001, the Distinguished Teaching Award in 2004 and the UAH Research and Creative Achievement Award in 2005. He also served for four years as associate director of the University Transportation Center for Alabama. The primary focus of the center was to conduct transportation education, research and technology-transfer activities throughout the state of Alabama and region.

Toutanji's contributions to the engineering profession have included serving since 2007 on the editorial review board of Scientific Journals International and serving since 2006 as an ABET program evaluator for the American Society of Civil Engineers. He is a fellow of the American Society of Civil Engineers and the winner of a number of National Science Foundation awards, including a prestigious CAREER faculty development award in 1995. For two years in a row—1995 and 1996—he was awarded scholarly productivity awards from the NSF-Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research. In addition, he has been invited by the NSF to participate in a number of international conferences and workshops.

He has served as principal or co-principal investigator on research projects that have received funding of more than $6 million from such organizations as the National Science Foundation, the Department of Transportation, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Department of Defense, NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the University Transportation Center for Alabama. His research focuses on fiber reinforced polymer composites, high-performance cementitious composites, smart materials and smart structures, and prestressed and reinforced concrete bridges.

In addition to his work at UAH, he has been a consultant for NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center, the U.S. Department of Commerce, the City of Huntsville, France's University of Cergy and a number of private firms in Alabama.

Toutanji will succeed Dr. Anthony Vizzini, who is now provost and vice president for academic affairs at Wichita State University. WMU's Dr. Edmund Tsang has been serving as interim dean during the search for a new college leader. Toutanji's appointment was announced pending approval of the WMU Board of Trustees, which is expected to act on the recommendation at its Jan. 22 meeting.