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Kelly Simmons-Potter outside the Old Engineering Building

College Names ECE’s Kelly Simmons-Potter Associate Dean of Academic Affairs

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College Names ECE’s Kelly Simmons-Potter Associate Dean of Academic Affairs

Nov. 16, 2023
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First up for the Distinguished Outreach Professor is integrating undergraduate and graduate programs.

Kelly Simmons-Potter joined the College of Engineering faculty 20 years ago, leaving a prominent role at Sandia National Laboratories.

“I recognized the impact I could have by sharing the fun of science and engineering exploration with students while engaging in cutting-edge research with the exceptional faculty and students in the University of Arizona College of Engineering,”,” said Simmons-Potter, a professor of electrical and computer engineering, optical sciences and materials science and engineering.

After two decades of academic success and outreach activities, Simmons-Potter has taken on the position of associate dean of academic affairs for the college. She began Nov. 13.

“I am confident Kelly will bring strong leadership to academic affairs at an exciting time,” said David W. Hahn, the Craig M. Berge Dean. “Her perspective will help us achieve all our strategic goals – to become not only larger and more renowned, but she is highly aligned with our commitment to broadening access to education and creating a welcoming and diverse community of learners.”

Strength in STEM Outreach

Simmons-Potter has worked with Jerzy Rozenblit, University Distinguished Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, since the beginning, as Rozenblit was the ECE department head for many years. Simmons-Potter was also ECE’s director of graduate studies for the past five years.

“What makes Dr. Potter particularly well positioned to assume this role is a blend of professional experiences and a variety of activities engaging a diverse cross-section of Arizona student communities in STEM activities,” said Rozenblit. “She has a proven record of creating roadmaps for success for students from a broad range of backgrounds and is well recognized for that in our state.”

Simmons-Potter directs the Arizona Research Initiative for Solar Energy, or AzRISE, program and is a professor in the Indigenous Food, Energy, and Water Systems graduate interdisciplinary program. She was named a University of Arizona Distinguished Outreach Professor this year in recognition of her exceptional environmental, social and economic contributions. Simmons-Potter has secured more than $45 million in grant funding for research in optical materials, sustainability, STEM pipelines, Indigenous resources and sovereignty, and photovoltaics.

Simmons-Potter is also a fellow of the American Ceramic Society and co-author of four textbooks in the field of optics. She has authored over 125 peer-reviewed journal and conference publications, delivered more than 150 scholarly presentations, and holds several patents.

“Dr. Potter’s research, teaching, and service – including her deep commitment to outreach in underserved communities – have had an extraordinary impact on our department, college, the university and Arizona community, and society. She is a very valuable member of the university faculty with a profoundly promising administrative career ahead,” said Rozenblit.

Vision for a Growing College

The college is growing quickly. The incoming class for fall 2023 remained at all-time high numbers with 750 students, and the college hired a record 22 new faculty members. Simmons-Potter’s initial plans as associate dean include strengthening educational programs to best serve the growing populations of undergraduate and graduate students. She plans to focus the academic affairs team on building bridges between undergraduate and graduate academics to offer broader support to all students.

“More integration across the college will guarantee an exceptional student experience with greater access to innovative research opportunities,” she said.

Further, expanding on the college’s recruitment, retention and advising practices will support ongoing efforts toward greater diversity and inclusivity. During Simmons-Potter’s tenure as ECE’s director of graduate studies, the percentage of female students in the Ph.D. program increased from under 12% to over 17%.

“I’m honored and excited to apply my dedication to education engagement, diversity and student success, as well as my passion for educating and supporting our amazing rising engineering leaders,” she said.