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University announces new dean of the School of Architecture, Design and Planning

Monday, March 23, 2015

LAWRENCE — The University of Kansas School of Architecture, Design & Planning will have a new leader beginning in June.

Mahesh Daas, professor and chairperson of the Department of Architecture at Ball State University, will become dean of the KU School of Architecture, Design and Planning on June 15.  He succeeds Professor and Dean John Gaunt, who led the school for more than 20 years.

“Mahesh Daas is a leading designer and innovator whose wide-ranging background and experience are an exceptional fit for KU,” said Jeffrey S. Vitter, provost and executive vice chancellor. “He will enable us to build upon and combine the creative energy and knowledge of the three departments of architecture, design and planning to great effect.”  

The School of Architecture, Design and Planning enrolls nearly 1,000 students and has academic programs that are more than 100 years old. The school is home to several highly acclaimed programs, such as Studio 804, the Center for Design Research and the Department of Design, which won honors as Best School at last year’s National Student Show, coordinated by the Dallas Society of Visual Communications.

Daas’ design and leadership career spans two decades. He is well-known across the international design landscape for innovation in design computing, architectural robotics, design thinking, innovation methods and management. Daas is an Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture distinguished professor, one of the highest national recognitions for an architectural educator. He has led the Department of Architecture at Ball State since 2008, also serving two years concurrently as the inaugural Emerging Media Fellow of the university’s Center for Media Design. Under his leadership, the department has come to be widely known for excellence in digital fabrication and social justice in design. He teaches courses in design thinking, innovation methods, advanced digital fabrication and leadership. 

Prior to joining Ball State, Daas served as associate dean for academic affairs and research of the College of Architecture at the University of Texas at San Antonio as well as a visiting assistant professor at Kansas State University. He also worked with professional firms in Chicago and Kansas City.

Daas publishes widely in scholarly and popular forums and has delivered keynote speeches at conferences across the world. In addition to more than 80 refereed scholarly or design works, he is the author of the forthcoming book “Leading with Aesthetics: The Transformational Leadership of President Charles M. Vest at M.I.T.”

Throughout his career, Daas has been honored for his creative achievements, leadership and innovative approach to teaching. In 2011, he became only the second person of Asian origin and the youngest educator to be named an Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture distinguished professor.  The Association for Computer Aided Design in Architecture (ACADIA) has twice elected him as its president and recognized his leadership in 2013 with the ACADIA Society Award of Excellence. 

At UT San Antonio, he won the President’s Distinguished Achievement Award for Creative Production. He is a co-recipient of a 2001 Kansas City chapter of the American Institute of Architects Merit Award for the Baron BMW Dealership building in Merriam and a 2007 recipient of International Fabrics Foundation Outstanding Achievement Award for the design and construction of Advanced Fabrics Exhibition. 

Daas has been a peer reviewer for the National Science Foundation and served on an NSF delegation to Israel in 2010 to explore bilateral research opportunities in sustainable materials and technologies. In 2011, he chaired an NSF symposium and workshop on Materials and Manufacturing for Extreme Affordability at Ball State. Daas also has served on research review panels for the Canadian government.

He is involved in a broad range of professional organizations, including ACADIA, the Association for Robotics in Architecture, International Digital Media and Arts Association, and the International Journal of Architectural Computing. Daas is also an award-winning creative writer and poet with a particular interest in Latin American existentialist and magic realist literature.

Daas earned his bachelor’s degree in architecture at Jawaharlal Nehru Technological University, India, where he is a licensed architect. He earned a master’s of architecture in urban design from Kansas State University and an executive doctoral degree in higher education management from the University of Pennsylvania. 

Gaunt will step down from his leadership role of the school at the end of the spring 2015 semester. He will remain a faculty member and continue teaching at KU.

“The KU community is extremely grateful for over two decades of leadership by Dean Gaunt. He has had an exceptional career,” Vitter said. “I also want to acknowledge the very good work of the search committee led by Dean of Journalism and Mass Communications Ann Brill.”

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