New ECS Dean Kevan Shafizadeh has plans for expansion, community partnerships
July 28, 2022
When Kevan Shafizadeh, Sacramento State’s new dean of the College of Engineering and Computer Science (ECS), began his journey into higher education as a student, he wasn’t even sure he was meant for college.
A civil engineering major, he barely avoided academic probation by the end of his first term. It wasn’t until he took a transportation engineering course as a junior that Shafizadeh found his passion and started acing his classes.
He says he tells that story because many Sac State students experience the same struggle.
“College was hard for me initially,” said Shafizadeh, who served as interim ECS dean before being given the permanent post in late May. “My own struggles with the major and this field help me to understand where a lot of our students are coming from.”
Growing up in the Bay Area, Shafizadeh found transportation and engineering to be big parts of his life. His father, who was born in Iran, worked as an airline mechanic, and his mother, who is Croatian American, worked at an oil refinery.
“I was riding my bike, riding my skateboard a lot, even taking the public bus,” Shafizadeh said.
Shafizadeh earned his bachelor's and master's degrees from UC Davis, and he earned his doctorate from the University of Washington in 2002, all in civil and environmental engineering.
He joined Sac State in 2004 as an assistant professor and rose through the faculty ranks, serving in different administrative roles, including Department of Civil Engineering chair.
“My entire time here has been an increasing level of responsibility,” he said. “One of the things that makes me proud about working at Sacramento State is that we change lives.”
A nationally certified transportation planner and traffic operations engineer, Shafizadeh also is registered as a professional civil engineer and a traffic engineer. He said few people have such a unique combination of education, certifications, licensure, and experience.
Shafizadeh also served on Sac State’s Transportation Advisory Committee and encourages faculty, particularly those with expertise in transportation, to provide input.
From 2015 through 2021, Shafizadeh served as the ECS associate dean. He then became interim dean following the departure of Lorenzo Smith, who now serves as provost and executive vice president of Academic Affairs at Stephen F. Austin State University in Texas.
Smith said Shafizadeh is a good fit because his focus is on the mission of the college.
“Dr. Shafizadeh is very student-centric in how he manages the college,” Smith said. “Under his leadership, I expect the college to grow substantially in its research footprint and visibility as a leading college of engineering.”
Over the next few years, Shafizadeh said he will work to modernize and expand ECS labs, facilities, and equipment while anticipating construction of a new engineering building to replace the outdated Santa Clara Hall.
Other plans and goals for the college include continuing on- and off-campus outreach, and further developing programs in partnership with the University’s Carlsen Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship and other partners such as SMUD and the California Mobility Center.
Sacramento State President Robert S. Nelsen said Shafizadeh’s ability to leverage a focus on students, programs and the community makes him the right choice for dean.
“Dr. Shafizadeh is a dedicated leader whose commitment to student success and to supporting innovative programs will benefit our students, the University, and the entire Sacramento region,” Nelsen said. “He is a true Hornet, and I am grateful he will continue to lead.”
Shafizadeh, who continues classroom teaching when he has the opportunity, also is working to further enhance student, faculty, and staff diversity. He is focused on developing a new program and exploring degree opportunities in power engineering as well as programs for Sac State’s Placer Center.
Outside of work, Shafizadeh, who lives near campus with his wife and two sons, enjoys spending time with family and friends, and taking part in outdoor recreation such as camping, swimming, and basketball, which he plays as often as he can during his lunch break.
Regardless of his role, Shafizadeh remains passionate about transportation.
As a professor, sometimes he would ride a skateboard to class to demonstrate certain concepts. Later, as associate dean, he said he began a transition to present himself as more of a professional administrator on a recommendation from Smith. That meant no longer riding the skateboard to campus, and he started wearing suits and ties.
Shafizadeh said he prefers to ride the bus to meetings downtown, and he still rides his bike to and from Sac State almost every day, even while wearing a suit.
“This multi-modal thing still exists in me,” he said. “This is part of who I am … and that’s who I’ll continue to be.”
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