Getting to Know Associate Dean David Tomasko

Posted: December 2, 2021
David Tomasko with his two rescue dogs
Associate Dean David Tomasko with two of his four rescue dogs, Lucy and Dixie.

Our next featured College of Engineering leader in the “Getting to Know” series is David Tomasko, associate dean for academic programs and student services, and professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering. After extensive publication in the fields of molecular thermodynamics, separations and polymer processing, his current research focuses on engineering education and student success in STEM majors. He also currently serves on the Academic Advisory Council for ABET (Accreditation Board for Engineering & Technology).

Previously, Tomasko served as associate dean for undergraduate education and student services. As associate dean, he oversees curriculum, accreditation, scholarships, advising and career services for students.

College of Engineering: I understand you have a new title to fit your augmented role – tell us about that.

David Tomasko: The new title is associate dean of academic programs and student services, and it used to just be undergraduate education. I think it’s one of those things where mission creep kind of takes over and I was doing things because they needed to be done across the college, and then Dean Howard came and noticed my title didn’t really capture exactly what I was doing.

CoE: What excites you most about this role?

Tomasko: The thing that excites me about this role has always excited me, and that’s the opportunity to serve the faculty and the students in the college. I love to see students kind of “grow up” and start to get into their discipline and learn—doing research, doing competitive project teams, getting involved in student organizations, getting internships and going out and getting jobs And just seeing them be successful and seeing how we can tailor services to help them be successful students—that's what still gives me a charge about this job. It's helping the programs and the faculty all maintain the quality of the curriculum—making sure that we're doing our assessment and keeping our accreditation in mind, as we continue to innovate with new courses, new ways of teaching and even new degree programs.

CoE: In this position, what do you see as the greatest challenge and the greatest opportunity?

Tomasko: I think the challenge is keeping everybody up to date on initiatives that are happening across the college and university that may impact the way we deliver our programs. We've spent three years talking about the new general education curriculum, and it has impacted the entire university. The biggest challenge for me in that space has really been helping people see the big picture and making all the connections where they need to be made. The opportunities really are looking for where the gaps are in what we're offering, and what the economy and companies are needing and wanting. It's always exciting to see new kinds of jobs come forth, especially in AI and some of the new computational disciplines. In my time here, I've seen us create the data analytics major and the Bachelor of Science in Engineering Technology to address needs. Those are the fun opportunities—I'm in a position where we can harness the faculty to create programs that actually move us all forward.

CoE: You’ve been a Buckeye for a long time – since 1993 – what do you enjoy most about working here?

Tomasko: I’ve always told people that being a university professor is the greatest job in the world, and the reason for that is the intellectual freedom it provides. There's no other job in the world that I know of where no one is standing over you telling you what to work on. As long as I can generate research funding to work on a particular idea, it doesn't matter how crazy it is, if I can push back knowledge in any given area that I'm interested in, then the university has a reward structure for me to do that. I don't know of any other job where you have that much control over the way you approach your work. Not only that, but you constantly are working with a new batch of students every year. It's a constant renewal. I think that the students keep us all young at heart and young in mind as well, so it's hard for me to imagine working any place else that would be as much fun.

CoE: Do you have an accomplishment or accolade you're proud of?

Tomasko: I would say that the one thing I was surprised I was asked to do, but I really got a huge charge out of it and it scared me half to death at the same time, was being the December commencement speaker about a decade ago. Immediately after I did it, I thought, “I should have said this, I should have said that,” but it was a great event. I got the invite from President Gee at the time and it set on my desk for about a week because I couldn't figure out whether I wanted to do it or not. And then I wrote back to him and said, “Yes I can do this. Can I use equations?” But it was wonderful… I really enjoyed that.

CoE: What about a favorite mentor or someone you've looked up to?

Tomasko: You know I look up to a lot of my colleagues and the people I work with. I learned a great deal from [former College of Engineering Chief Diversity Officer] Donnie Perkins while working with him when he was here in the college, and just personally in my own outlook on equity and inclusion. Working with him allowed me a great deal of personal growth. The other person around the university, who I have been interacting with my entire career here, is Susan Olesik, who's now the dean of natural and mathematical sciences. Because we were in a similar research area, she reached out when I was first hired to bring me into some proposals that she was working on and to introduce me around, and we ended up working on a lot of projects together. We have a similar enthusiasm for K-12 outreach and education, and she has shown me how to be successful as a faculty member and a researcher, which I appreciate.

CoE: Last question—favorite hobbies or interests outside of work?

Tomasko: My wife and I, all our children have four legs. We have four rescue dogs that we’ve had for a long time. I always joke with her that city code only allows you that many before you have to register as a kennel. So we spend a lot of time taking care of the dogs. I don't really have any focused hobbies—I tend to dabble. Recently I’ve been dabbling in home renovation. We just moved this summer and bought an older house, so I'm learning how to do a lot of new things.

by Meggie Biss, College of Engineering Communications |

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