Carnegie Mellon University

An Academic History

2014 - 2015 (interim): Nathan Urban

Nathan Urban, the Dr. Frederick A. Schwertz Distinguished Professor of Life Sciences, began serving as the interim provost of Carnegie Mellon University on July 1, 2014.

Prior to his appointment, Dr. Urban had been head of the Department of Biological Sciences in CMU's Mellon College of Science since 2010.  

Dr. Urban joined CMU as a faculty member in 2002 after four years as a research fellow at the Max-Planck Institute for Medical Research in Heidelberg, Germany, under the supervision of Nobel Laureate Bert Sakmann.

Urban received his bachelor's degree in neuroscience from the University of Pittsburgh, studied mathematics and philosophy as a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University, and earned his doctorate in neuroscience at the University of Pittsburgh.

In 2005, he was selected by Scientific American as one of the 50 leaders in science and technology.

2000 - 2014: Mark Kamlet

Dr. Mark S. Kamlet, provost emeritus, is a professor of economics and public policy, with joint appointments in Carnegie Mellon University’s H. John Heinz III College and in the Department of Social and Decision Sciences (SDS) in the Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences.

He joined Carnegie Mellon as a faculty member in 1976. From 1990 to 1993, he served as SDS department head. From 1993 to 2000, he served as Heinz College dean.

In 2000, Dr. Kamlet began serving as provost (chief academic officer) and executive vice president of the university. As chief academic officer, he oversaw the research and educational activities of the academic side of campus, including budgetary and space issues, as well as the appointment, reappointment, promotion and tenure processes for faculty.

He also was actively engaged in the university’s technology commercialization activities, the growing internationalization of the university’s global footprint and the role of technology in education. Dr. Kamlet earned his bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Stanford University, and a master’s degree in mathematical statistics and Ph.D. in economics from the University of California at Berkeley.

1991 - 2000: Paul Christiano

Paul Christiano spent most of his academic and professional career at Carnegie Mellon. He earned all of his civil engineering degrees from the university; after a brief period elsewhere, he returned to campus as an associate professor. He became a full professor in 1981, then served as associate dean of the College of Engineering from 1982-86, head of the Civil Engineering Department from 1986-88, and dean of the college from 1989-91. President Mehrabian named him provost in 1991.

Christiano worked to strengthen all academic and research units and helped lead an educational movement at the university that fostered the growth of cross-disciplinary and interdisciplinary education and research on campus. He stimulated the creation of new research programs that involved the collaboration of faculty and researchers across multiple academic units, specifically among the arts, engineering and computer science.

Of particular importance to Christiano was his work with the Small Undergraduate Research Grant program, which allowed young scholars and scientists to explore their own areas of interest and hone their skills as researchers. He was also an advocate of technology-enhanced learning, and as provost he helped to establish the Technology Enhanced Learning Lab (now the Office of Technology for Education) to assist faculty in their use of technology to improve the education process.

Christiano was at the center of strategic investments in each of the university's academic units, and his work enabled Carnegie Mellon's reputation to soar to its highest level in history. Christiano helped to establish the Office of Technology Transfer (now the Innovation Transfer Center) and the positions of vice provost for education and research. During his tenure, he also served as acting dean of the College of Fine Arts (1992-93) and the Graduate School of Industrial Administration (1995-96), as well as acting vice president for development (1999-2000).

1983 - 1991: Angel Jordan

Angel Jordan joined the Carnegie Mellon community in 1956 as an instructor and doctoral student in Electrical Engineering. In the next two decades, Jordan rose through the faculty ranks, eventually becoming the Whitaker Professor of Electrical Engineering in 1972 and dean of the Carnegie Institute of Technology (now College of Engineering) in 1979.

While he was provost, Jordan took a leadership role in attracting the Software Engineering Institute to Carnegie Mellon and in helping to establish the School of Computer Science. Undergraduate enrollment continued to grow and graduate enrollment nearly doubled between 1968 and 1988. The university also saw a major increase in sponsored research, and advisory boards were created to ensure that departments were giving their students the best education possible.

The university thrived while Jordan was provost, attracting the brightest faculty members from the best universities in the nation. Their research helped place Carnegie Mellon among the United States' most prominent research institutions.

In July 2003, Jordan was appointed acting director and chief executive officer (CEO) of the Software Engineering Institute (SEI).

(Reference: Carnegie Mellon: A Centennial History, Carnegie Mellon University Press, Pittsburgh.)

1981 - 1983: Daniel B. Berg and Richard Van Horn

President Cyert continued to have two provosts in the 1980s.

Berg joined the university from Westinghouse and, prior to becoming provost, served as dean of the Mellon College of Science. As dean, Berg was instrumental in fostering support from the university's department heads for creating the Robotics Institute. He also helped recruit the institute's first faculty and students. After three years as provost, Berg left Carnegie Mellon to serve as provost at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, where he later became president.

Van Horn originally came from the faculty of the business school and also served as vice president of business affairs. Van Horn was in good stead with the faculty and personally visited every department during his tenure to hear criticism and explain priorities. He also strove to make computing accessible for everyone.

Together with professors Herbert Simon and Alan Newell, Van Horn convinced President Cyert that a campus network of personal computers could be a valuable tool for the university community. Van Horn and Cyert approached IBM with a proposal to become partners in the Carnegie Mellon's Andrew Computing Network, the first networking venture on a university campus. Today, Carnegie Mellon has one of the "most wired" and "wireless" computing networks in the world.

After he left Carnegie Mellon, Van Horn went on to serve as president at both the University of Houston and the University of Oklahoma.

While Berg and Van Horn served as provosts, the University Teaching Center and Information Technology Center were established. Carnegie Mellon also became a leader in computer technology.

1973 - 1980: Arnold Weber

Weber served as provost for the College of Humanities and Social Sciences (now Dietrich College), the School of Urban and Public Affairs (now Heinz College) and the Graduate School of Industrial Administration (now the Tepper School of Business). He was also dean of the business school but resigned from the position in 1977 to concentrate on the provost's role. He left Carnegie Mellon in 1980 to become president at Northwestern University.

1964 - 1981: Edward Schatz

From 1964 through 1973, Carnegie Mellon did not have a university provost, per se. Instead, President Warner created the position of vice president for academic affairs and chose Edward Schatz to fill that position. As vice president for academic affairs, Schatz led and coordinated the development and improvement of the university's total education program. He played key roles in the merger with the Mellon Institute of Research and in creating the School of Urban and Public Affairs (now Heinz College).

The university changed dramatically during Schatz' tenure. The College of Engineering was divided into the Carnegie Institute of Technology and the Mellon College of Science. Margaret Morrison Carnegie College was phased out over the course of several years, and the College of Humanities and Social Sciences (now Dietrich College) was created with departments in English, History, Modern Languages and Psychology. Wean Hall and Warner Hall were constructed, and the student body continued to expand. Faculty members formed the Faculty Senate in 1968 to address major campus issues.

In 1973, President Cyert officially reinstituted the Office of the Provost but split the office between two individuals, Schatz and Arnold Weber. Under Cyert, Schatz oversaw all educational matters in the Carnegie Institute of Technology (now College of Engineering) and the College of Fine Arts. Schatz served as interim university president for a short time in 1972 before Cyert took office.

While Schatz was provost, the university continued to grow. The Robotics Institute opened and Carnegie Mellon celebrated its first Nobel Laureate, Herb Simon, who won the Nobel Prize in Economics in 1978. Schatz was instrumental in bringing the first computers to Carnegie Mellon and encouraged the growth of technology on campus.

After serving as provost, Schatz became senior vice president of the university and oversaw large building projects, like the $47 million University Center.

(References: Schaefer, Ludwig; Evolution of a National Research University 1965-1990, Carnegie Mellon University Press, Pittsburgh. The Carnegie Mellon News, April 12, 1996, p. 3. Fenton, Edwin; Carnegie Mellon: A Centennial History, Carnegie Mellon University Press, Pittsburgh.)

1945 - 1958: Elliot Dunlap Smith

Elliot Dunlap Smith joined the Carnegie Institute of Technology (now College of Engineering) faculty in the 1944-45 school year as the Visiting Falk Professor and became one of the most noteworthy administrators in Carnegie Mellon history.

During his tenure as provost, Smith played a large role in developing the Carnegie Plan of Professional Education — the institute's pioneering model of education designed to develop in students the character and ability needed to help them think independently about all aspects of their professional, social and private responsibilities. The curriculum was divided into two parts, scientific and humanistic-social. Engineering and Science students were required to take about one quarter of their classes in the humanistic and social sciences. All courses employed CIT's unique problem-solving focus.

Smith also regarded examining and improving undergraduate teaching as his chief objective and was instrumental in founding the Graduate School of Industrial Administration (now Tepper School of Business) in 1949.

When he retired in 1958, the Board of Trustees commended Smith for his significant contributions to the university through his leadership during the development of a liberal professional education program.

(References: Cleeton, Glenn, The Story of Carnegie Tech II: The Doherty Administration, The Carnegie Press, Carnegie Institute of Technology, Pittsburgh 1965. Wright, Austin, The Warner Administration at Carnegie Institute of Technology 1950-1965, The Carnegie Press, Carnegie-Mellon University, 1973.)