UW Today

September 20, 2011

New director of UW Tacoma Institute of Technology is right-brain/left-brain leader

Rob Friedman, a professor with degrees in both the humanities and information science, is the new director of University of Washington Tacomas Institute of Technology.

Rob Friedman

Rob Friedman

Friedman comes from the New Jersey Institute of Technology, where he served simultaneously as chairman of the humanities department and director of the science, technology and society program, while holding a joint appointment with the College of Computing Sciences.

He replaces the retiring Orlando Baiocchi.

A lifelong resident of the New York City metropolitan area, Friedman recently moved with his wife, Lorie, to Gig Harbor.

Although their last names are the same, hes not related to new UW Tacoma Chancellor Debra Friedman.

Seeking funding will be one of Rob Friedmans key goals as the Institute of Technology director. He plans to step up the institutes pursuit of government research funding, especially from the National Science Foundation, and the departments of Defense and Energy.

“Ill be working with faculty to gin up as many proposals as we can,” Friedman said.

Hes also meeting individually with the institutes 17 advisors from private industry, the government and community.

The institute was created in 2001 with private donations, local government dollars and state matching funds to address thegrowing demand for workers in the high-tech industry. As of autumn 2010, the institute had produced 470 new technology professionals with undergraduate degrees and more than 100 with masters degrees.

Friedmans varied academic background is a good match for UW Tacoma, an institution that thrives on its interdisciplinary approach to studies.

The Bronx native began his academic preparation in the humanities, earning a bachelors degree in English and financial journalism, a master of fine arts in fiction and a doctorate in American literature.

Eventually, he took an interest in information technology through projects with computer science professors. He began studying computer science himself, and represented NJIT in a consortium of technical universities around the country developing undergraduate degree programs in information technology.

In 2000, Friedman helped launch NJITs information technology degree. Two years later, he earned a master of information science there.

NJITs information technology program has been steadily growing since its inception. The chance to help another program flourish attracted Friedman to UW Tacoma.

Friedman said 130-year-old NJIT is a “wonderful, well established” institution in Newark, one of the nations oldest cities. In contrast, 21-year-old UW Tacoma offers, “a lot of vibrancy that cant be replicated in an old, industrial town.”

“Professionally, it was the right move at the right time,” Friedman said. “The position offers an interesting challenge.”