“Eileen is a talented scholar in the areas of enterprise performance measurement systems, lean work systems, and organizational improvement practices. She has emerged as a true leader through her vision and unwavering dedication to the university and college,” said Julia M. Ross, the Paul and Dorothea Torgersen Dean of Engineering. “I am delighted that after a successful national search, Eileen has accepted the position.”
An educator and leader in the industrial and systems engineering field, Van Aken has led the department as interim head since 2016, when former head, G. Don Taylor, began service as acting dean of the college. Taylor now serves as the vice provost for learning systems innovation and effectiveness at Virginia Tech.
Under Van Aken’s leadership, the department has continued to be top-ranked, according to U.S. News & World Report, with the undergraduate program at No. 8 and the graduate program at No. 7. Research expenditures received from external sources for the department increased by 20 percent in the past year.
Additionally, Van Aken hired six new faculty in the past two years, including positions in the areas of ubiquitous mobility and industrial analytics, which will contribute to the university’s Destination Areas.
Working with the department’s advisory board and alumni, Van Aken launched innovative programs to increase alumni engagement and philanthropy, including creation of an emerging leaders board of more recent alumni, an alumni mentoring program, and an annual departmental give challenge. Over the past two years, Van Aken’s efforts, in collaboration with the college's advancement team, have resulted in a 54 percent increase to the department’s excellence fund endowment, which is used to support student-focused activities, organizations, and programs.
“Industrial and systems engineering at Virginia Tech has a rich history and tradition of excellence in the industrial engineering profession. I am honored to have the opportunity to lead the department in the coming years,” said Van Aken. “The breadth of our faculty expertise enables us to serve an instrumental role in advancing knowledge to address the complex and pressing challenges we face today. I am most excited about continuing to work with our exceptional students, staff, faculty, and alumni. The industrial and systems engineering community at Virginia Tech has a strong reputation, a passion for excellence, and spirit of Ut Prosim.”
Van Aken has received approximately $3.5 million in external funding for her research with a personal share of more than $2.4 million. She founded and directed the Enterprise Engineering Research Lab and has advised or co-advised twelve doctoral students to completion. Van Aken’s research has been funded by the National Science Foundation and multiple industry sponsors. She has published 140 papers in refereed journals and conferences. Throughout her career, Van Aken has collaborated with international faculty and students from Brazil and Belgium on research, visiting scholar exchanges, and student exchange programs.
Prior to her interim role, Van Aken served as the associate department head, assistant department head, undergraduate program director, and professor, all in the Grado Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering.
Van Aken joined the College of Engineering faculty in 1996, after working with the university’s Center for Organizational Performance Improvement. She was also an industrial engineer for AT&T Microelectronics in Richmond, Virginia, where she was a member of product and process engineering departments in the printed circuit board manufacturing facility and conducted engineering analyses on product and process problems and issues.
Van Aken is a Fellow of the Institute of Industrial and Systems Engineers (IISE), the American Society for Engineering Management, and the World Academy of Productivity Sciences. She is also a member of both the American Society for Quality and the American Society for Engineering Education. She served as co-editor-in-chief of the Engineering Management Journal from 2012 through 2018 and on the board of directors for the American Society of Engineering Management. Van Aken currently serves on the board of trustees as senior vice president-international for IISE. She has served as an ABET evaluator for industrial engineering programs both within and outside the U.S.
Van Aken is a three-time Hokie, earning her bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees in industrial engineering in 1988, 1991, and 1995, respectively.