Joseph Helble Named Dartmouth’s Next Provost

As Thayer School dean, Helble has brought national prominence to the engineering school.

Thayer School of Engineering Dean Joseph Helble has been appointed Dartmouth’s next provost by President Phil Hanlon ’77. As dean, Helble brought national prominence to the school, making it a national leader in educating women in engineering, and creating the first engineering PhD innovation program in the country. 

A professor of engineering and a recognized leader in his field, Helble is in his fourth term as Thayer’s dean, having led the school for almost 13 years. During his tenure, the school’s funding has grown to record levels and enrollment has nearly doubled. 

President Hanlon says Helble has demonstrated a keen ability to lead and innovate while at Thayer, which has flourished under his leadership.

“As an educational trailblazer, Joe Helble is eminently suited to help shape Dartmouth’s future at this time of dynamic change and opportunity,” says Hanlon. “He is a visionary and skilled leader who will bring a track record of accomplishment to his new role.”

As provost, Helble will report to Hanlon and serve as a key member of the president’s senior leadership group. He will begin his new job at the end of October.

Helble says he’s excited about the challenges ahead. “I am honored to be taking on this important role, at this momentous time for Dartmouth, and I look forward to working closely with President Hanlon and the extraordinary people at Dartmouth—our talented faculty, gifted students, and committed staff.”

Helble says he’s looking forward to learning more about the work of faculty across campus. Early in his tenure, he plans to visit departments, programs, and centers across the institution and hear from professors and administrators.

“I have enjoyed working with Joe on the Thayer-computer science expansion in the west end, and I look forward to partnering with him more broadly as he gets to know the Faculty of Arts and Sciences,” says Elizabeth Smith, the arts and sciences dean.

As Dartmouth’s second-ranking officer and the chief academic officer, Helble, in consultation with the academic deans, will be charged with advancing the teaching and scholarship of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, the Geisel School of Medicine, the Guarini School of Graduate and Advanced Studies, the Tuck School of Business, and Thayer.

Working with academic deans, the dean of the College, and the vice provost for enrollment management, Helble will be responsible for supporting and advancing all student-related programs, including leadership for all aspects of enrollment management, admissions, and financial aid, and will have significant financial oversight, working closely with the executive vice president to manage the academic budget.

Helble’s appointment follows a national search. An advisory committee participated in the process and was chaired by Professor Deborah Nichols. The committee’s other members were Associate Professor Margaret Ackerman, Tuck student Eunice Bii, Professor Colin Calloway, Professor Paul Christesen, Vice Provost for Enrollment and Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid Lee Coffin, Professor Deborah Hogan, Tuck Associate Dean Punam Keller, Professor James LaBelle, undergraduate Jay Raju ’18, trustee Chair Laurel Richie ’81, and Chief Financial Officer Michael Wagner. The search was facilitated by the executive search firm Witt/Kieffer.

“Joe Helble knows this institution well and is very good at fostering collaboration across schools and disciplines. He also has the ability to implement change,” says Nichols. “These are just a few of the qualities that made it clear he was the best candidate for the job.”

Helble will take over for David Kotz, the Champion International Professor in the Department of Computer Science, who will continue as interim provost through October. Kotz has served since November, when former provost Carolyn Dever returned to teaching and research after more than three years in the position. An interim dean at Thayer will be named, and a search will begin this summer to fill the permanent dean position. 

Growth and New Directions at Thayer

During Helble’s tenure, the engineering school has seen a sharp increase in the percentage of engineering graduates who are women. In 2016, Dartmouth granted 52 percent of its undergraduate engineering degrees to women, making it the first national research university to award more bachelor’s degrees in engineering to women than to men. The national average is 20 percent.

At the same time, overall popularity of engineering at Dartmouth has also grown, with currently more than 70 percent of undergraduates enrolling in at least one engineering or computer science course. Unlike any other engineering school in the U.S., candidates for a bachelor’s degree in engineering at Dartmouth must also earn an undergraduate degree in the liberal arts, a requirement that has been in place for more than 50 years.  

Says Helble, “a grounding in the liberal arts creates the context for understanding engineering problems and helps students learn to ask broader questions and develop deeper critical thinking skills.” 

Under Helble’s leadership, engineering enrollment in Thayer’s undergraduate and PhD programs has doubled, and the school created the nation’s first doctoral-level engineering innovation program to address the growing need for people with high-level technical and entrepreneurial expertise.

Also new are exchange programs in Asia and Denmark; a modified major with public policy for those interested in careers in public service; summer design programs for middle and high school students interested in exploring engineering; short courses taught over winter break for Dartmouth and Thayer students interested in exploring a technology-focused topic; and a biomedical engineering sciences major for engineering students interested in attending medical school. Thayer has also seen research funding grow to record levels, and the number of tenure-track faculty has grown as well. 

As provost, Helble will be positioned to ensure continuity in the west end development, where Dartmouth will integrate engineering, the computer science department, and the new Magnuson Family Center for Entrepreneurship, a new 160,000-square-foot facility.

Helble’s Path to the Academy

In 2017, Helble was elected a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the world’s preeminent general scientific organization. The AAAS cited his contributions “in the areas of air pollution, aerosols, nanoscale ceramics, and air quality, and for excellence in teaching and professional service.”  

In 2014, Helble and Thayer colleagues John Collier ’72, Thayer ’77; Robert Graves; and Charles Hutchinson received the National Academy of Engineering’s Bernard M. Gordon Prize for Innovation in Engineering and Technology Education, the largest educational engineering prize in the nation, for the design and implementation of the Engineering Entrepreneurship Program, which integrates entrepreneurship into all levels of the engineering curriculum.

Prior to his arrival at Dartmouth in 2005, Helble was the Roger Revelle Fellow of the AAAS, and spent a year working on technology and environmental policy issues in the office of then-U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman. 

Helble was a professor of chemical engineering and chair of the Department of Chemical Engineering at the University of Connecticut, where he received the inaugural Environmental Faculty Leadership Award. He has done research in areas of air pollution, carbon dioxide capture, aerosol science, and nanoscale materials production. He previously worked as a research scientist at Physical Sciences Inc. in Andover, Mass., and as a science and policy fellow of the AAAS at the Environmental Protection Agency.

Helble has served on several EPA Science Advisory Board panels, and as a member of the editorial boards of the scientific journals Environmental Engineering Science and Fuel Processing Technology, and is presently a member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers’ Spectrum Editorial Advisory Board and the Montshire Museum Board of Trustees. He is also the current chair of the Public Policy Committee of the American Society for Engineering Education U.S. Engineering Deans Council.

He is the author of more than 100 journal articles and holds three U.S. patents related to the production of nanoscale powders. He received a National Science Foundation CAREER award, the organization’s most prestigious award in support of junior faculty.

Helble received his bachelor’s degree, summa cum laude, in chemical engineering, from Lehigh University. He received his PhD in chemical engineering, with a minor in Spanish, from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. 

Helble and his wife, Rebecca Dabora, live in Norwich and are the parents of three adult children.

Susan Boutwell can be reached at [email protected].