Getting to know School of Computing Divisional Dean Gurdip Singh

Gurdip Singh is the divisional dean of George Mason University’s new School of Computing and a professor in the College of Engineering and Computing. Although he officially joined the university on August 1, he is currently assigned to the National Science Foundation (NSF) under the Intergovernmental Personnel Act (IPA) to complete his work there as Director, Division of Computer and Network Systems (CNS) in the Computer and Information Science Engineering (CISE) Directorate. He will join Mason full-time in January 2023.

Dean Singh in the pilot space at Mason Square
Photo by Ron Aira/Creative Services

As an NSF division director, he oversees 27 program officers, 12 administrative staff, and a budget of $240 million. Prior to his work at NSF, Singh was associate dean for research and graduate programs of the College of Engineering and Computer Science at Syracuse University. He also served as a program director in the Division of Computer and Network Systems in the CISE Directorate at NSF from July 2014 to August 2016.

Singh earned his MS and PhD in computer science from SUNY, Stony Brook, in 1989 and 1991 respectively, and his BTech in computer science and engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi, in 1986.

What attracted you to this position at Mason?

Mason has a very comprehensive portfolio of research and teaching programs in computing that permeate throughout the university. At the same time, the Greater Washington Region has a great ecosystem of industry, federal agencies, nonprofit organizations and academia that offers tremendous opportunities to both students and faculty. The role of Divisional Dean is a great opportunity to leverage the Mason computing landscape and regional ecosystem to position the School of Computing as a leader in innovative research and education programs.

What do you bring to the role of dean that will make you successful?

I have experience in both academic and research administration, and I have been successful in advancing academic units with respect to the research and education goals. I have also maintained a high-quality research and teaching program throughout my career. In my current role, my division is responsible for developing (a) research programs to maintain national competitiveness in critical/emerging areas, and (b) education programs to transform computing education to meet the challenges and opportunities of a world where computing is increasingly essential. to all sectors of society.

What are some of your goals for your time as dean?

I would like the Mason School of Computing to develop programs that can serve as national models for advancing computing research and education within a university. I want to elevate computing as a strategic differentiator for Mason by partnering with units in humanities, education, science, politics, engineering, and the many other disciplines and domains across the university.

What is your strategic vision for the School of Computing (SOC)?

My vision for SOC is to have (1) comprehensive suite of education programs in computing across Mason in partnership with other units on campus, (2) nationally recognized research and scholarship programs in computing that are providing leadership in university-wide multidisciplinary efforts, ( 3) programs leveraging the regional ecosystem to advance entrepreneurship and civic engagement, and (4) a vibrant environment with diversity in students, faculty and staff. Overall, I want SOC to be among the top schools of computing in the nation.

Diversity is central to Mason’s mission. Why is diversity particularly important in learning and research within the School of Computing?

Diversity is important within SOC for several reasons. First, there is a tremendous national need to train our workforce with computing knowledge/skills, and it is important that our education programs are available to a diverse student body. Second, computing plays a central role in addressing societal challenges; hence, it is important that we involve people from diverse groups in designing programs/solutions that are effective in benefiting a broad cross section of society. Finally, SOC has a tremendous opportunity to have a great regional impact by advancing diversity.

What would you like students, faculty, staff, and partners to gain from your tenure as dean?

I would like all stakeholders to gain from my experience in building collaborations/partnerships to advance computing research and education. I also bring experience in developing research/education programs for computing—looking out into the next decade—at the national/international level. I hope to develop mechanisms and mentoring programs for professional development of faculty and staff to advance them in their careers. Overall, my goal is for students, faculty and staff to work in a thriving, energetic environment that is making a positive impact at Mason and in the region.

How would you describe your leadership style?

My leadership style is based on decision making by consensus and leading by example. I like to involve all relevant stakeholder groups—students, faculty, staff, alumni—in decision making. I try to provide opportunities to others to lead initiatives and develop leadership qualities.

How did you get interested in computing?

When I finished high school in 1982, the computing discipline was relatively new, promising and exciting, and a new—and first—undergraduate program in computing was just announced at the Indian Institute of Technology in New Delhi. I was lucky to be admitted to the first batch of computer science undergraduate students. I liked the computing discipline from the beginning, and my interest grew tremendously over time.

What do you do outside of work/for fun?

I am a big fan of college/professional sports—football and basketball. I like to travel and try to spend time to get to know local culture/food at places I visit.