Syracuse professor chosen as dean for College of Engineering

May 17, 2013 12:01:30 PM



A New York higher education administrator and faculty member is Mississippi State's new engineering dean. 


The appointment of Achille Messac to lead the university's James Worth Bagley College of Engineering is pending formal approval by the Board of Trustees, State Institutions of Higher Learning. He will be MSU's first African American dean. 


At Syracuse University, Messac has been serving as chair and distinguished professor of the mechanical and aerospace engineering department. A Massachusetts Institute of Technology doctoral graduate in aeronautical and astronautical engineering, he previously held administrative and faculty positions at the Troy, N.Y.-based Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and was a faculty member at Northeastern University in Massachusetts. 


"We are fortunate to have attracted a person of the caliber of Dr. Messac," said Jerry Gilbert, MSU provost and executive vice president, in making the announcement. 


"He has an outstanding record and is well prepared to take the Bagley College to a new level of excellence," Gilbert added. 


Messac, a naturalized U.S. citizen born in Haiti and fluent in French, also holds MIT bachelor's and master's degrees in aeronautical and astronautical engineering. He began his professional career in 1981 with the internationally recognized Charles Stark Draper Laboratory in Cambridge, Mass. 


While at Syracuse, Messac helped significantly increase the mechanical engineering program's ranking in the U.S. News & World Report annual higher education survey. His academic department also saw a five-fold increase in doctoral graduation rates, including half the entire engineering college's PhDs awarded last year. He also received the highest international technical award in his field from the American Institute for Aeronautics and Astronautics. 


Gilbert said Messac "has aggressive plans to move the Bagley College forward, and we are excited about the great things that will happen under his leadership." 


Along with agriculture, engineering is the oldest academic curriculum at the 135-year-old land-grant institution. From its first freshman class of about a dozen, the Bagley College--one of approximately 40 named engineering colleges in the nation--has grown to a current enrollment of more than 2,000. 


Nationally, the college is ranked 34th among all engineering colleges in research and development expenditures, according to the National Science Foundation. It also is among the top 25 in graduating African Americans. 


In 2002, alumnus Jim Bagley and his wife Jean Bagley provided the college with a $25 million endowment. In appreciation, the university named the academic unit in his honor. 


Messac will succeed Sarah Rajala, who left earlier this year to accept a similar position at Iowa State University.