CORVALLIS, Ore. – Oregon State University has named a leader from one of the nation’s top engineering schools and a former CH2M-HILL engineer with eight years of industry experience as the director of its new School of Civil and Construction Engineering.
Scott Ashford, a 1983 OSU alumnus, received his doctoral degree in geotechnical engineering from the University of California, Berkeley. He has been a professor since 1996 at the University of California, San Diego, where he helped the Jacobs School of Engineering climb the national rankings from 43rd to 11th.
“During that process, I learned a lot, and I plan to take that knowledge and apply it here at Oregon State,” said Ashford, who has taught and done research in many parts of the world. His work has ranged from the highways of California, to seismic hazards in Thailand, to landslide mitigation in Sri Lanka.
One of Ashford’s main goals will be expanding the graduate programs in both civil engineering and construction engineering management. He also plans to expand OSU’s new master of engineering degree, which can be obtained in one year.
“Students today need to know that a master’s degree helps lead to a successful career,” Ashford said. “I believe every single one of our students should consider staying on to get a master’s degree before entering the job market. We have an outstanding undergraduate program, so my focus will be growing our graduate program while maintaining the high quality of our undergraduate program.”
Ashford will continue his research programs, which are currently funded by four research grants totaling about $800,000. He has a mobile structures testing lab that can be transported to job sites, and plans to build a Soil-Foundation-Structure Interaction Laboratory at OSU, where the relationship between buildings, foundations and the soils they sit on can be studied.
At OSU, Ashford will join a strong engineering team and a college being transformed by about $100 million in private investment. That investment – along with state funds directed through the Oregon Engineering and Technology Industry Council – have stimulated a 130 percent jump in engineering research at OSU, a 40 percent increase in engineering degrees conferred, and a 60 percent growth in doctoral enrollment since 1999. This has moved the OSU college to a number 40 position among United States engineering programs in overall output of degrees and research.
“Scott is a perfect match with the OSU team, and his leadership will help us move both the new School of Civil and Construction Engineering and the college as a whole to the next level,” said Ron Adams, dean of the OSU College of Engineering.
Ashford will also oversee a complete renovation of historic Apperson Hall, to be renamed Kearney Hall, which will house key components of the new school. And he plans to grow research funding and develop new engineers who are work-ready upon graduation.
“I have a good sense of what industry wants in terms of research and graduates because I’ve been there,” he said. “And if you look around at the multidisciplinary research under way at Oregon State, we have an outstanding group of faculty, not just in this department, but throughout the College of Engineering and across campus. We’re a real asset to industry.”
The OSU School of Civil and Construction Engineering conducts work in such fields as coastal and ocean engineering, construction engineering, geotechnical, structural and transportation engineering, and water resources engineering. Faculty members operate the internationally recognized O.H. Hinsdale Wave Research Laboratory – which houses the National Tsunami Wave Basin – as well as the National Center for Accessible Transportation, the Kiewit Center for Infrastructure and Transportation and other key research facilities.
Studies done by the departments are helping Oregon to better prepare for earthquakes or tsunamis, developing improved transportation systems for people with disabilities, helping the state more effectively reallocate millions of dollars for repair of aging bridges, and creating new ways to preserve high quality groundwater.