Dutton selected for campus Excellence in Faculty Mentoring Award


Prof. Craig Dutton
Prof. Craig Dutton
Aerospace Engineering Prof. Craig Dutton is the 2016 winner of the University of Illinois Excellence in Faculty Mentoring Award.

The Office of the Provost award recognizes a faculty member who has demonstrated an outstanding commitment to mentoring by actively assisting pre-tenure and mid-career faculty in developing their careers.

Referring to Dutton as having a “mentor personality,” College of Engineering Dean Andreas Cangellaris maintained that Dutton’s influence has been vital in launching successful careers for many junior faculty members in both Mechanical Science and Engineering (MechSE) and Aerospace Engineering (AE). “Craig is not a mentor just because he is asked or assigned to do so; he is a mentor through all that he does,” the Dean said.

Dutton divided his career between Illinois and Texas, starting at Texas A&M University as a mechanical engineering professor in 1980 before joining the mechanical engineering department at Illinois in 1985. He returned to Texas, chairing the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at the University of Texas at Arlington from 2004 to 2007. Dutton then came back to Illinois as Aerospace Engineering Department Head from 2007-2011, and has been on AE’s faculty since his return.

Current AE Department Head Philippe Geubelle said several of the eight new faculty members who have joined AE in the past two years cited faculty mentoring among reasons for coming to Illinois. Much of that credit goes to Dutton, said Geubelle, who also has appreciated Dutton’s advice on being a Department Head.

Phil Ansell, one of the new assistant professors, was particularly grateful for Dutton’s help when assigned with teaching AE 311 (Incompressible Flow), a large junior-level core course, in Fall 2015. Dutton, in addition to his regular teaching assignments, offered to split with Ansell the teaching load for AE 311, and met with Ansell regularly over the semester to discuss classroom strategies. Both Dutton and Ansell were included in the List of Teachers Ranked Excellent for that course at the end of the semester.

Ansell also says he learned from Dutton how to take into consideration various funding agencies’ priorities when writing research proposals, knowledge that Ansell believes helped him achieve a successful Young Investigator Award from the Department of Defense. “He taught me how to think like a basic researcher so I could not only be successful during the proposal process, but also as the subsequent research was performed.”

AE Assistant Prof. Marco Panesi credited Dutton for help with proposal writing, as well as finding excellent graduate students. “We spent a lot of time reviewing the student applications and exchanging opinions, but more importantly he would send me the dossier of promising students, without me even asking,” Panesi said.

AE Prof. Greg Elliott has appreciated Dutton’s advice on working with graduate students, including those whose paths to earning their degrees have been relatively smooth, and those who have had a more challenging journey. “He taught me how to have ‘firm kindness’ in advising, so that we prepare students for leadership positions in which they work through difficult circumstances and not simply avoid them,” Elliott said of Dutton.

Dutton has been included on the list of Teachers Ranked Excellent almost every semester at Illinois, and AE students have awarded his excellence in teaching and advising. He won the campus Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching in 1988.

He held the W. Grafton and Lillian B. Wilkins Professorship from 1998-2003, the Donald Biggar Willett Professorship from 2003-2004, and the Abel Bliss Professorship from 2007-2012. Specializing his research in gas dynamics, fluid mechanics, and propulsion, Dutton was included on the Oregon State University College of Engineering Academy of Distinguished Engineers in 2004.