Engineering Georgia Tech's Future:

Wayne Clough

By Lea McLees

ON ANY GIVEN DAY, Georgia Institute of Technology academic and research faculty are preparing 13,000 students for their future roles in society, pursuing cutting-edge research on approximately 2,000 active grants and contracts, or working with any of the 1,300 industries and communities Georgia Tech helps yearly with technical assistance and economic development. Meanwhile, the world is changing at a rapid pace -- becoming more interdisciplinary, globally competitive, and reassessment-oriented.

Tending to the multi-dimensional fundamentals of a growing research university in a quickly evolving world poses an enjoyable challenge for Georgia Tech's new president, Dr. Wayne Clough.

"We must balance the needs of first-year students through doctoral candidates, while maintaining vigor in our continuing education programs, research, and service roles, and do so in a time of rapid change," he explains. "The complexity of this multifaceted university is what makes my work interesting."

Clough's decisions on how to approach this challenge are regularly influenced by his experience as a teacher, researcher, administrator and civil engineer. He has taught students, conducted research, and served as a consultant to a range of companies and agencies for the past 26 years.

"So many things we do in developing Georgia Tech's many dimensions affect faculty, or affect our approach to gaining or distributing resources," he says. "My years as a teacher, researcher and administrator come into play almost every day."

A Teaching and Research Foundation

Clough, who began work as president on September 1, 1994, is the first Georgia Tech graduate to take the helm of his alma mater. He earned bachelor's and master's degrees in civil engineering at Georgia Tech in 1964 and 1965, and completed his doctorate at the University of California-Berkeley in 1969. Most recently he served as provost at the University of Washington, where he directed that school's teaching and research missions and helped develop the university budget. He taught civil engineering at Virginia Tech, led that school's Department of Civil Engineering for seven years and then served as dean of engineering there from 1990 to 1993. He also taught civil engineering at Stanford and Duke universities and worked with the U.S. Corps of Engineers and Woodward-Clyde Consultants.

Clough has published 120 papers and reports, authored six book chapters and advised 34 doctoral and 25 master's students through completion of their graduate degrees.

He was recognized for his contributions as a teacher with the 1986 George Westinghouse Award presented by the American Society of Engineering Education. In addition, he has received seven national awards related to his research from the American Society of Civil Engineers, including the Norman Medal, the society's oldest and highest recognition. Clough was elected to the National Academy for Engineering in 1991.

Clough continued his research and thus his instruction of graduate students even as he took on administrative and managerial responsibilities at Virginia Tech. "I was still very much a faculty member as a dean," he recalls. "I felt it was very important, and very possible that I would be returning to the faculty any day."

Clough's research interests lie in geotechnical engineering and include earthquake studies, numerical analysis, soil structure interaction, in-situ testing, and underground openings. He is the author of several widely used computer codes for geotechnical engineering. The codes allow for simulation of interactions between soil, groundwater and structures such as buildings and dams.

"They were designed to provide maximum flexibility," he says. "Analytically, they simulate the way an engineer thinks about doing a job."

Clough continued his research on a smaller scale after being named provost at the University of Washington. Preparing for the 1994 Terzaghi Lecture sponsored by the American Society of Engineers, which recognizes and honors a civil engineering career, required two years of work involving literature review, compilation of materials, and developing the information into a design format. "Once I settle in at Georgia Tech, I hope I'll have time to do some research and maybe team teach a seminar," he says.

Preparing Future Generations

Clough recalls one of his most challenging and exciting teaching experiences: leading a freshman honors English seminar at Virginia Tech, during which works of literature were dissected and discussed. A mix of engineering and English majors read the works of Maya Angelou, William Faulkner and others.

"We threw in Head to Head, a book by Lester Thurow on economic competition, to keep the engineers fully engaged," Clough notes. "The engineers marveled at how fast the English majors could read and understand the nuances in literature, while the English majors appreciated the engineers' analytical skills as they studied Thurow's work."

A similar combination of strengths will prepare Georgia Tech graduates for the future, he notes. Team-building, problem-solving and communication skills are valued more and more by business and engineering employers. "We are graduating some of the best technologically educated citizens of this country, and they need to know how it fits into our culture," Clough says.

Just as Clough believes literature and engineering should go hand-in-hand, so do research and teaching. Research is teaching, he maintains - researchers share their latest findings with students in the classroom. Graduate assistants working with advisers on research projects are learning from that process.

Clough argues that the issue research universities need to address is not research versus teaching, but the proper distribution of teaching effort to ensure students at all levels of the educational spectrum - from freshman to doctoral - get the instruction they need. Maintaining the integrity of teaching, and rewarding good teaching tangibly, is important.

"Research universities must ask, 'What do you provide as clear evidence of the value of teaching to the schools, departments, and individual professors?'" Clough says.

Serving the State and the Nation

Georgia Tech will be an integral part of helping Georgia continue its move toward a more technologically based economy. The Georgia Research Alliance has already identified advanced telecommunications, environmental technology and biotechnology as areas holding potential benefits to Georgia-and the state's traditional industries, such as textiles, agriculture and pulp/paper, are becoming highly technical. Georgia Tech is helping to maintain that traditional base while contributing expertise to new industry.

The institute can help in the continuing education arena, as well, by delivering engineering education in innovative ways -- like distance learning.

"Technological advances are so rapid that knowledge becomes obsolete quickly," Clough says. "Tech can use new methods of educational delivery to help citizens in Georgia stay up-to-date on the latest technology and its applications."

Students in Georgia Tech's present distance learning programs can earn master's degrees in electrical, industrial, nuclear, environmental, mechanical and health physics/radiological engineering via videotape, contacting the instructor by phone, fax or e-mail as needed. Georgia Tech is part of a statewide system offering refreshers for the Fundamentals of Engineering and Professional Engineering exams with sites set up around the state, and receives faculty and staff development programs from the National Technological University via satellite.

Changing Funding Environments

As a civil engineer, Clough knows that structures with built-in elasticity are less likely to collapse or develop structural defects. Flexibility in finance also is vital to building a research university budget that can adapt to changing times.

"Some proposals in Congress may eliminate or significantly reduce traditional research and student loan programs," Clough says. "Added to this is an increasing demand for accountability, and a focus on what research universities do with the funding they receive. The changing emphases in research require us to create a model that allows us to be responsive to new initiatives. That flexibility has to be reflected in our resource base."

Clough sees flexibility as being gained by using resources carefully and avoiding locking funds into uses that can be quickly outdated by changes in the research agenda.

"We're a $370 million business at Georgia Tech," he explained. "We have to manage those resources very carefully. Raising money and getting money is not the answer, if it becomes locked up through an 'entitlements' process. The key is to build a resource base, so that in ten years you have more flexibility."

Also important are enhancing the resource base, staying informed about changes in the state and federal environment, and making sure policymakers and lawmakers are apprised of Georgia Tech's contributions and needs.

Addressing Administrative Issues

Georgia Tech is an evolving research university with much potential. While many of its units are near the top in national stature, others have yet to reach this level. Clough feels Georgia Tech will only fulfill its aspirations when it can point to nationally recognized programs in all its colleges. In addition, Tech has to work on its management systems. Research universities need good human resources and training that support employees and enhance their work abilities and environment. Businesses are ahead of universities in addressing many of these issues, Clough notes.

"At the same time, the very nature of universities creates an environment that is different from a traditional business. Universities place high value on individual initiative, and diversity of opinion is valued," he notes. "The history of independence in the university means we need to work harder to mobilize institutional commitment. Even if the administrative commitment is there, we often depend on a voluntary response."

Clough has begun to make administrative changes that reduce the number of layers between himself and employees and students, so communication is as direct as is possible. He also has a direct e-mail account so anyone can share ideas with him:

In addition, he emphasizes the power of thoughtful, informed strategic planning. "This is not just a brainstorming project," Clough says of Georgia Tech's strategic planning process. "Everyone has to understand the context in which to make decisions, because there are not infinite amounts of money, facilities or resources."

Continuous quality improvement is also a part of Georgia Tech's future - it helps define the other end of the human dimension, the responsibility of the employee to the research university. "People work hard, share their responses with the team, think of ways to improve what they are doing, and accept the fact that you cannot do only what you want to do. You have to accept evaluation of your work. It develops a clear understanding of each person's responsibility to the institute."

Today and Tomorrow

People around the state, nation and world see the results produced via Georgia Tech's many dimensions, both through graduates sent into the work force and campus research, Clough notes.

"The research university is charged with the noble task of educating young people and helping them grow as productive citizens in a democratic society, as well as having a research and development side that in today's environment has to be business-oriented," he concludes.

"The challenge is to not lose sight of any of our responsibilities. I know Georgia Tech can meet that challenge."

Table of Contents

Send all questions and comments to

Last updated: 26 Jan. 1996