By James Cirrone

Dr. Samuel Graham, photo courtesy of UMD Right Now.

Dr. Samuel Graham, a man deeply concerned with future technologies, will become dean of the University of Maryland’s A. James Clark School of Engineering. Effective October 1, 2021, he will assume President Pines’ old position.

Graham currently oversees almost 3,000 students as the Eugene C. Gwaltney, Jr. Chair of the George W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering at Georgia Tech. It’s one of the largest mechanical engineering schools in the country, and he said this gives him the necessary experience to manage the University of Maryland’s engineering school. 

“I think you always have a certain amount of respect for making a change,” Graham said. “But I think there’s also a level of confidence that I have been here and done things before, and I’ve seen some ways to have success.”

Interim Provost Ann G. Wylie expressed total confidence in Graham’s ability to lead the second-largest school on campus.

“He brings an outstanding record of success in academic leadership and engineering research and aligns with our vision for excellence and an unwavering commitment to a multicultural campus,” Wylie wrote in a June 3 statement.

Graham also tried to assuage fears that he’ll come in and make sweeping changes. 

“It’s not like I’m the one that creates all the success,” Graham said, “It’s not going to be just the Sam Graham vision, it will be a collective vision that we buy into, and will I help find the resources to make sure it’s executed.”

Although Graham hasn’t yet come up with a comprehensive plan for the engineering school, he talked a lot about collaboration and competition. He believes these two principles will make this university’s engineering program stronger.

“I want my team to win this competition if it’s a design project,” Graham said, “So there’s that level of competition, but not to the point where we’re no longer colleagues, or we can’t talk, or I can’t give you any help.”

Competition and learning through engaging experiences are the things that excite Graham most about the engineering field. He talked extensively about the Formula SAE competitions, wherein groups of students from all different universities build race cars from scratch. The goal? To have the most efficient car on the track.

Above are the highlights from a 2017 FSAE competition in Illinois.

Graham took a personal interest in the Georgia Tech student group competing in the FSAE competition. He would approach companies and ask for donations to get the students new tools and equipment to work on the cars. Now, he’s trying to get a trailer for the race car so students can transport their creation to wherever the next competition will take place. 

Left: Georgia Tech Team competing in May 2021 SAE Baja competition, credit Professor Ken Cunefare.
Right: UMD’s racecar on the Michigan International Speedway in 2018. Courtesy- Terps Racing Facebook

“I get the satisfaction out of putting the resources there, so the students that are doing these incredible things will have every advantage they need,” Graham said. 

But possibly the thing Graham values most is how he comes across to students. He wants to be a friendly face in the halls of the A. James Clark school that students feel comfortable speaking to. 

“I’m approachable, so one of the things I always say is, I want students to feel free to come to talk to me,” Graham said. “I want to be able to have that as part of my legacy when I’m done, that I was able to help students.”