New engineering dean aims to expand program, inspire passion in students

Courtesy of Kern

Dr. Phil van Haaster, assistant professor of mechanical engineering and department chair of aerospace, industrial and mechanical engineering, will become the new dean of the Gordon and Jill Bourns College of Engineering starting July 1.

To prepare for the position, van Haaster currently meets with Dr. Anthony Donaldson, founding dean of the College of Engineering, to discuss administrative duties and goals for the position of dean.

Donaldson has been the dean since the start of California Baptist University’s College of Engineering. He plans to remain in the faculty as a professor.

“The beauty of that is I will have a resource I can tap into, so it is not like I am stepping in and knowledge is lost,” van Haaster said. “We will maintain that knowledge as Dr. Donaldson will remain part of the College of Engineering.”

Before becoming a professor, van Haaster worked for 26 years in the industry and had roles in executive leadership. He decided to enter into academia because of his passion for mentoring and teaching engineers he was responsible for in his executive leadership role. As a result, he stepped into a role as a professor at CBU. Additionally, when he became department chair of aerospace, industrial and mechanical engineering, he learned more about working in academia and led the effort to build a new Master of Science and Engineering that will be available in the fall.

Van Haaster said he believes God has prepared him through his past work experience to teach engineering students and collaborate with and develop a team of colleagues in the College of Engineering as dean. He said it is important to analyze the content that the College of Engineering offers and successfully teach it to students in a way that will honor God.

“The College of Engineering is staffed with brilliant people,” van Haaster said. “What I can do as I step in is I have a global perspective that may not have been there before —running a major portion, North America, for a global organization, whether it be the research and development, finance, marketing or program management. Being able to recognize and move around assets appropriately is a key that I bring to the College of Engineering.”

As dean, van Haaster will become responsible for all departments in the College of Engineering rather than a single department as a chair. Van Haaster  said he hopes to use his interdisciplinary skills from his industry background to fulfill his responsibilities as dean and to emphasize the importance of developing students’ interdisciplinary abilities in the College of Engineering.

“In industry and throughout the world, engineering is interacting with several other disciplines,” van Haaster said. “What I look at in the future as dean is making our engineers capable to interact with marketing, business leaders and finance.”

Raymond Curran, senior civil engineering major, said the engineering program has advanced over the years he has been in the program.

“The College of Engineering has been expanding rapidly in the last few years,” Curran said. “In 2018, they finished their new state-of-the-art building. As the years go by, they continue to add clubs and participate in new events, and with every new year the number of engineering graduates in every field grows.”

Kenna Morrison, sophomore mechanical engineering major, said she is looking forward to what the future holds for the College of Engineering.

“Everything I have heard makes me excited to continue with the College of Engineering under a new dean, especially since I will have a class with Dr. van Haaster next semester,” Morrison said. “I will miss Dr. Donaldson, but I look forward to the future. I hope to see continued expansion of the program and I hope to have the same excitement for projects that I have had in the past.”

Van Haaster said he is looking forward to helping students shape their integrity and passion for engineering to prepare them for the professional world whether they enter academia or industry.

“I am most excited about channeling that impatience and passion so that when they do go out in industry or advanced academia, they are going out in a way that they can harness that energy to impact the world for Jesus,” van Haaster said.


Leave a Reply