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Friday, September 11, 2009

Zane Mitchell named chair of USI Department of Engineering

News and Information Article Photo
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LaVerne Jones
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Betty Vawter
Senior Editor, News & Information Services
Dr. Zane W. Mitchell Jr. , formerly deputy department head in civil and environmental engineering at the United States Air Force Academy and a leader in the nation's program to dismantle weapons of mass destruction, has been named chair of the Department of Engineering at the University of Southern Indiana.

Mitchell joined USI in July after retiring as a U.S. Air Force colonel. He was deputy department head for civil and environmental engineering at the Air Force Academy from 2007-09. He also served as chief of the department's geotechnical engineering division. In addition to serving as department chair at USI, he is associate professor of engineering.

Dr. Scott Gordon, dean of the Pott College, said, "Zane is a proven leader and will be extremely active and visible in the community. He has the experience and background to bring our engineering program to new levels of success and recognition not only regionally, but nationally. The rapid growth in the program and construction of new state-of-the-art facilities will be a key selling point for recruiting top faculty and students from around the United States."

From July 2004-July 2007 Mitchell was associated with the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA), formed by the U.S. Department of Defense in 1998 to safeguard the United States and its allies from weapons of mass destruction. Mitchell joined the agency as deputy program manager for the chemical weapons elimination program. He was responsible for a project to build a $1.02 billion facility in Russia to eliminate nerve agent-filled artillery shells. He was promoted to program manager in 2005, continuing construction of the plant as well as leading the destruction of nerve agent production facilities in two locations in Russia and the construction of a plant in Albania to eliminate that country's chemical agent.

In 2006, Mitchell was named deputy director of the Cooperative Threat Reduction Directorate for DTRA. He oversaw offices in six countries for the $8 billion Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction Program.

The Shchuchye Chemical Weapons Destruction Facility in Russia opened in May of this year. Speaking at the opening ceremony, U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar singled Mitchell out for his work in threat reduction, saying, "Untold horrors were prevented by your commitment and work ethic."

Mitchell said the motivation and quality of the engineering faculty and the teaching philosophy attracted him to the USI engineering program.

He said, "I think engineering is best taught and learned by instructors (not teaching assistants) working with students in a setting where the classes are small and one-on-one interaction can be achieved.

"I'm also excited about the level of support and funding that the engineering program enjoys from the Pott College of Science and Engineering and from our University leadership –” the new Business and Engineering Center and the new advanced manufacturing facility being the crown jewels of that support."

The Business and Engineering Center is under construction and will open in fall 2010. A facility for the new major in advanced manufacturing is in the design stage and also is scheduled to open in fall 2010.

Mitchell was commander of the 19th Air Support Operations Squadron in Fort Campbell, Kentucky, from August 2002-July 2004. He led the deployment of more than 140 personnel to Iraq before the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom. He was previously director of operations for the 11th Air Support Operations Squadron at Fort Hood, Texas. He was deputy commander for a 70-person Air Force unit deployed to Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom.

Mitchell served as instructor and then assistant professor of civil engineering at the U.S. Air Force Academy from 1993-95. After completing a doctoral degree, he returned to the academy as division head for the Construction Practices Division and then deputy department head for Operations in the civil and environmental engineering program from 1998-2001.

From 1983-92, Mitchell served as an Air Force officer and pilot in electronic combat and bomber aircraft.

He earned a bachelor's degree in civil engineering at the U.S. Air Force Academy, a master's degree in business administration at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and master's and doctoral degrees in civil engineering at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. He has completed military education programs at the Joint Forces Staff College, Air War College, Air Command and Staff College, Squadron Officer School, and Defense Acquisition University.

He is certified as a professional engineer. He also holds certification as a project management professional from the Project Management Institute. He is a LEED accredited professional, a recognition awarded by the U.S. Green Building Council.

His military awards include the Defense Superior Service Medal, two Bronze Star Medals, five Meritorious Service Medals, two Air Medals, and 22 others.

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