RWU selects Robert Griffin as new SECCM dean


Courtesy of Robert Griffin

RWU selects Dr. Robert Griffin as new the dean for the School of Engineering, Computing and Construction Management (SECCM).

Jimmy Sadowski, Herald Reporter

On April 6, Dr. Robert J. Griffin was announced as the next Dean of the School of Engineering, Computing and Construction Management (SECCM). Griffin said he is excited to start working in his new position, which he will officially begin on July 1.

“I see Roger Williams as a place that has a tremendous positive trajectory,” Griffin said. “If you look back when I was growing up, it was Roger Williams College and now it’s Roger Williams University and you have the only law school in the state of Rhode Island. Being affiliated with a university that is looking to continuously improve as opposed to just maintaining the status quo is a really great opportunity for me.”

Griffin grew up in Bourne, Massachusetts. He completed undergraduate studies in chemical engineering at Tufts University before working in Boston for a few years. He went on to complete graduate studies at the California Institute of Technology and moved straight into academic positions after that.

Griffin worked at Rice University in Houston, Texas for the last 13 years. He taught and completed research in the environmental engineering program.

“On the research side, I do atmospheric chemistry and air quality research, trying to understand what the physical and chemical processes are that control the spatial and temporal dynamics of air pollution and how it impacts climate and human health,” Griffin said.

During the past six months, Griffin has held various administrative roles in the School of Engineering there, from department chair to senior associate dean and interim dean. He thinks this is where he found the desire to move on and become a dean.

During his time in the Dean’s Office at Rice University, Griffin was part of the team that helped deliver cutting-edge pedagogy, where students got to continue their research with a low COVID positivity rate compared to other Texas schools.

Griffin plans to emphasize hands-on learning experiences for RWU SECCM students.

“I see the incredible value of hands-on experiential learning,” Griffin said. “At the undergraduate engineering level, this could be in the form of undergraduate research or undergraduate design. Knowing that SECCM has the new lab building and really great facilities could help me work with the faculty, the Provost, the President and the students to really increase the number of opportunities that the SECCM students have to participate in programs like that.”

Former engineering major, sophomore Alex Skov, said he liked Griffin’s plan to bring more hands-on learning to the SECCM program.

“That’s great!” Skov said. “For me, I’m a ‘just throw me into something and I’ll figure it out’ type of learner, so hands-on, less in the classroom… so I support that.”

Sophomore Will Daly, another former engineering major, held a similar opinion.

“I think that’s a good plan to do for students because it’s a good way for students to come together through these hard times with COVID,” Daly said. “I know it has been rough this past year because people haven’t been able to be present with each other due to quarantining and online school. I think it’s a good step in the right direction for students to learn hands-on.”

Griffin said he also wants to improve the relationship between SECCM and local industrial partners at the student and faculty level, as that will not only facilitate hands-on experiences but also bring opportunities for internships, externships, scholarships and job offers for students.

A huge Boston sports fan, Griffin said he will try to go to or watch as many Boston sporting events as he can and also go to as many RWU sporting events as is able to.

Griffin said the university is getting a dean who acts with honesty and integrity and wants to make himself and others around him better.

“I think you’re getting someone who is motivated not only to make himself a better person, a better professor, a better dean but to make the people around him more successful,” Griffin said. “It’s my goal as a dean to make the students, faculty and staff of SECCM get where they want to go.”