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Georgia Tech stays local in naming new dean of College of Architecture

By Maria Saporta

After conducting a national search for a new dean, Georgia Tech’s College of Architecture ended up picking the internal choice.

Steven P. French, associate dean for research and professor of city and regional planning, will become dean of Georgia Tech’s College of Architecture on July 1.

He will succeed Dean Alan Balfour, who announced last August that he intended to step down in June and rejoin the architecture faculty.

French joined Georgia Tech in 1992 as director of the City Planning Program and served in that position through 1999. From 1997 through 2011, he was director of the Center for Geographic Information Systems. He was appointed associate dean for research for the College of Architecture in July 2009.

“It is an honor to welcome Steve French to the leadership team of the Institute,” said Rafael Bras, Georgia Tech’s provost and executive vice president for academic affairs. “My conversations with Steve make me very confident that the College of Architecture will reach an even higher level of excellence.”

Steven French

Steven French

French said he is looking forward to taking on the new role.

“It’s a great honor to be chosen to lead this outstanding College,” French said. “It also is a great challenge, and I am humbled by the confidence placed in me by the Institute and by my colleagues.”

French said that in the coming months he wants to engage College of Architecture faculty, staff, students and alumni in fashioning a vision and strategic plan for the College. He also plans to reach out to other colleges and schools on campus.

“In terms of immediate priorities, I would like to better connect the College of Architecture with other units at Georgia Tech, particularly Mechanical Engineering, Civil Engineering and the College of Computing,” French said. “Drawing upon the great strengths of this institution can help us create a truly unique college that provides an exciting and supportive environment in which our students and faculty can grow and develop.”

French also has plans for moving the College forward at the national level.

“Over the next five years, I would like for the College of Architecture to become a center of design thinking and pedagogy, and I would like all of our programs to be ranked in the top 10 nationally,” he said in the official announcement. “To do that, I’d like to see technology more fully integrated into all our curricula and our research programs.”

French’s teaching and research activities focus on sustainable urban development, land use planning, GIS applications and natural hazard risk assessment. Over the past 25 years, he has been the principal investigator or co-principal investigator on more than 70 research projects. He has participated in a number of National Science Foundation (NSF) projects that deal with flood and earthquake hazards, and he was the social science thrust leader for the Mid-America Earthquake Center, an NSF Engineering Research Center.

He is the author or co-author of more than 25 refereed journal articles and four books. He has served on the editorial boards of the Journal of the American Planning Association, Journal of Planning Education and Research, Journal of the Urban and Regional Information Systems Association and Earthquake Spectra.

French holds a Ph.D. in City and Regional Planning from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Before coming to Georgia Tech, he taught for 10 years at California Polytechnic State University-San Luis Obispo. In 1987-88, he served as the Visiting Professor of Resources Planning in the Civil Engineering Department at Stanford University. He is a Fellow of the American Institute of Certified Planners.

French was one of three finalists considered for the deanship.

The other two finalists were: Dr. Gail Dubrow, a professor of architecture, landscape architecture, public affairs and planning and history at the University of Minnesota; and Dr. Daniel Friedman, professor of architecture and former dean of the College of Built Environments at the University of Washington.

Maria Saporta

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.


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