Kevin Taaffe said that as the new chair of the Department of Industrial Engineering, he will work to achieve excellence in the undergraduate and graduate education experience, recruit top-notch Ph.D. students and ensure that everyone in the department is respected equally.
Taaffe was named interim chair in December 2020 and recently had the interim tag removed from his title.
He oversees a department of more than 660 students, 24 faculty members and nine staff members.
Taaffe, who joined Clemson in 2004, said the industrial engineering department made a shift toward a greater emphasis on research several years ago and he intends to stay the course.
“I want to preserve that balance between teaching and research and leverage the different types of talents that everybody has here,” he said. “At the end of the day, we want to be recognized for our teaching excellence as well as our research excellence.”
Robert Jones, executive vice president for academic affairs and provost, said that Taaffe is well qualified to lead the department.
“Dr. Taaffe brings a wealth of experience in teaching, research and team-building, qualities that will serve him well in his new role,” Jones said. “The department is in good hands under his leadership. Please join me in congratulating him.”
Taaffe began his academic career at Clemson as an assistant professor and later rose to associate professor and full professor.
Students voted him the department’s Professor of the Year in 2009. He was named the Harriet and Jerry Dempsey Professor of Industrial Engineering in 2015, a position that helped foster research collaborations with Prisma Health.
In 2018, Taaffe shared the Collaboration Award with Lawrence Fredendall, professor of management, for research they conducted on operating room procedures. The honor came from the College of Engineering, Computing and Applied Sciences.
“One of the things I’m most proud of is being open to collaborative opportunities,” Taaffe said. “The Collaboration Award was many years in the making. At the end of the day, we want to maximize the impact of our research in the community. By focusing on where my contributions fit into the bigger puzzle, and who else should play a role, I assemble research teams that foster creative thinking and produce meaningful research.”
It’s an ethos Taaffe said he is bringing to his new role as department chair, as he encourages his colleagues to seek out collaborations to propel their research.
Taaffe said he wants students to know that they will learn not only methods in their courses but also real-world applications that will prepare them for the next step in their careers. He also wants the students to feel the effect of the department’s values.
“When students set foot in Freeman Hall, I desire this to be a welcoming environment where they really feel connected, where Clemson IE is their home and their family. We are a department that cares.”
Taaffe worked as a senior consultant for American Airlines and senior manager for Sabre in the 1990s before returning to academia for his Ph.D.
He holds a Master of Science in industrial engineering from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and a Ph.D. in industrial systems and engineering from the University of Florida.
Among those congratulating Taaffe was Anand Gramopadhye, the dean of the College of Engineering, Computing and Applied Sciences and former chair of the Department of Industrial Engineering.
“Dr. Taaffe’s rich experience in building collaborations, his passion for student success and his institutional knowledge will serve him well in his leadership of the department,” Gramopadhye said. “I offer him my wholehearted congratulations on the appointment to his new role as department chair.”
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