November 15, 2010

Tim Weihs tapped as Leadership Education Center director

Tim Weihs

For Tim Weihs, whose new job is to help Johns Hopkins students make the jump from labs and lecture halls to business meetings and boardrooms, the journey is a familiar one.

Weihs, a professor of materials science and engineering, has spent much of the past decade steering a high-temperature, quick-bonding foil out of his own lab and into the marketplace. Along the way he co-founded a company, served as its CEO, sought money from investors, made marketing decisions and hired more than a dozen employees. Last year, Reactive NanoTechnologies, the Baltimore County company launched by Weihs and fellow faculty member Omar Knio, was acquired by Indium Corp. of Clinton, N.Y. Weihs remains a consultant to Indium.

“This all started in 1996 as sort of a pipe dream,” Weihs said. “Today, I have a tremendous appreciation for all of the effort and skill it takes to get technology out of the lab and push it to the point where it’s a product that someone is willing to buy. The execution of these dreams is very challenging.”

On Nov. 1, while remaining a materials science professor, Weihs took on a fresh challenge as the new director of the Center for Leadership Education, based at the Homewood campus. The center houses the W.P. Carey Program in Entrepreneurship and Management, the Master of Science in Engineering Management program and the Professional Communication Program.

Weihs, who previously served on the center’s advisory committee, said he understands the need for these academic options. “We’ve traditionally done a very good job of training students to go on to grad school, but not all students want to do that,” he said. “Some want to go right into the working world. These students—and some of their parents—believe courses in accounting, marketing and business practices could give them a leg up after graduation. These are the type of classes the center offers.”

In announcing the center’s new director, Nick Jones, the Benjamin T. Rome Dean of the Whiting School of Engineering, pointed to Weihs’ experience in both higher education and the business world.

“Since joining the Whiting School in 1995, Tim has proven his strength as a dedicated teacher and mentor, led a highly active research program, and he has demonstrated his fundamental understanding of leadership and industry through his own highly successful entrepreneurial activities,” Jones said. “Needless to say, we all feel extremely fortunate that we were able to identify such an accomplished and qualified individual within the Whiting School community.”

The center originated in 1996 as the Entrepreneurship and Management Program, launched by John Wierman, a professor of applied mathematics and statistics who identified a need for more business-oriented courses. The classes proved to be extremely popular, and in 1999 businessman William P. Carey, then a university trustee, endowed the program, which was named in his honor.

Although the program is under the auspices of the Engineering School, it is also open to undergraduates from the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences and the Peabody Institute. Currently, more than 900 students take its courses each semester, and more than 150 students graduated in 2009 with the program’s entrepreneurship minor.

The Entrepreneurship Program and the Professional Communication Program, which helps students improve their written and oral communication skills, now operate under the umbrella title of the Center for Leadership Education. Last year, the center also began offering a three-semester, 10-course Master of Science in Engineering Management degree program that currently has 36 students enrolled.

The center, which operates outside of the traditional academic departments, relies on its own six full-time and 18 part-time faculty members, most of whom have extensive experience in the business world. Weihs said that because these are not tenure-track positions that require intense research and grant application work, the faculty members can focus mainly on instructing students. “We have an excellent group of lecturers,” he said, “and I think they’re here because they love to teach.”

Because Weihs will retain some of his own engineering research and teaching duties, he will receive administrative help at the leadership center from two newly appointed associate directors, Lawrence Aronhime and Eric Rice, both of whom teach in the center’s programs.

In the early years of starting his own business, Weihs often had to seek guidance from off-campus business experts. But more recently, he said, the university has made great strides in providing more entrepreneurship training and advice to students and to faculty members. The leadership center, he said, is one example.

“John Wierman did a wonderful job of establishing the Entrepreneurship Program, and the center’s faculty members have done a great job in growing the program,” Weihs said. “My goal is to help the faculty improve and expand the program.”

Related websites

Johns Hopkins Center for Leadership Education

W.P. Carey Program in Entrepreneurship and Management

Professional Communication Program

M.S. in Engineering Management Program

Tim Weihs