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Dr. Jon Rust Named Wilson College of Textiles Interim Associate Dean for Academic Programs

Dr. Jon Rust

Dr. Jon Rust has been named interim associate dean for academic programs in the Wilson College of Textiles effective July 1.

“Jon has been a leader at NC State in undergraduate academics for many years,” said Dr. David Hinks, dean of the Wilson College of Textiles. “(His) passion for student success and academic and teaching excellence as well as his demonstrated ability to cultivate industry relationships here and abroad will serve him and the College well.”

Rust has been a faculty member in the Wilson College of Textiles since 1985, and has served as  Textile Engineering program director, Textile Engineering, Chemistry and Science (TECS) associate head and director of Undergraduate Programs, department head of TECS and, most recently, interim director of Zeis Textiles Extension (ZTE), a role he has held since 2014. He has chaired the University Committee on Courses and Curricula, the ad hoc University Committee on Undergraduate Academic Program Review, and the NC State Council on Undergraduate Education. He also served as interim associate dean for General Education Program Implementation during the 2008-2009 academic year.

Serendipity brought me to the world of textiles – fate, if you will.

As interim director of ZTE, he has led the department in achieving record-setting numbers in support of both College of Textile students and the textiles industry. In 2016 alone, ZTE provided more than 3,000 hours of pro bono support to the undergraduate and graduate education and research mission of the College; its Lean Six Sigma revenue was up by 20 percent and its professional textile education revenue was up over 50 percent.

Under his leadership, said Hinks, “the department has also played a critical role in driving entrepreneurship and economic prosperity in our state and nation by introducing national and international companies to the resources offered by the Wilson College of Textiles and NC State. Those introductions have led to significant investments in the textiles industry and especially in North Carolina and as a result, ZTE contributed to an economic impact of over $60 million in the past year.”

Rust will retain his position as interim director of ZTE, but he is eager to make his mark in his new role as interim associate dean for Academic Programs.

“I have a chance to have a significant positive impact on the entire College – that’s really exciting,” he said. “It is magnified by the fact that there are so many really strong people to work with in Academic Programs and across the College…it is important for me to point out that my colleagues in both units are outstanding individuals who provide great leadership to the College. There is no way I could do both jobs without the outstanding leadership they provide.”

His colleagues feel the same way about him.

“Ever since I met Dr. Jon Rust during my faculty candidate interview back in January 2003, it was clear to me that Jon’s number one focus was on student support and development,” says Dr. Russell Gorga, TECS associate professor. “As a colleague over the last 14 years, Jon has demonstrated this focus countless times.  I am so pleased that he will lead the Office of Academic Programs in the Wilson College of Textiles. I know he will do a fantastic job and his commitment to our students and his staff will be unwavering.”

His overarching goal is simple: to support his fellow professors and enable the success of Wilson College of Textiles students.

“(I want) to do whatever I can to help each of my colleagues come to work with a smile and feel really good about their career, their colleagues and their work-life balance — and for Academic Programs to contribute in the largest possible way to have a positive impact on the students in the Wilson College of Textiles,” Rust said. “This includes contributing to their personal and professional growth, providing a quality educational experience in and out of the classroom, providing outstanding career opportunities and assisting them in meeting their career goals.”

Education

Rust was almost a doctor of a different sort. Raised on a dairy farm, the first career he imagined for himself was as a veterinarian. But when he got to college in South Carolina, he studied a variety of subjects before finding his niche.

“Don’t even ask me about my undergraduate career and how many majors I had after I discovered becoming a veterinarian wasn’t just a gift someone handed you as a certificate of attendance,” he said.

He graduated from Clemson University with a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering in 1982 and an M.S. in Fiber Science in 1985, and received his Ph.D. in Fiber and Polymer Science from NC State in 1990.

“Serendipity brought me to the world of textiles – fate, if you will,” he said. “(I) didn’t appreciate the great opportunity I was given to go to Clemson University as an undergraduate student. I squandered opportunities, made far too many repeated mistakes, and just didn’t respect the institution of higher education as I wish I had. But fate placed me in graduate school…Once there, I grasped the second opportunity and did all I could to be a success in this newfound career.”

His path through college was not a smooth one, but he credits the experience with making him a better professor and a match for his new role as Interim Associate Dean for Academic Programs with the Wilson College of Textiles.

“My atypical socioeconomic background, compared to my peers in college, and my mistakes as an undergraduate student…make me a good fit for this job,” he said. “I have met with students who were struggling in school for various reasons. When I tell them about my personal failures as a student and how I was able to overcome my mistakes to have a nice career, I’m often rewarded by a facial expression that tells me some of the stress has lifted from the student’s shoulders.

Rust’s approach to teaching is to interact with his students as much as possible.

“I ask them many questions during class knowing that thinking and doing go hand in hand and with risk-taking, through self-expression, can come confidence and a desire to attain goals that may not have been previously considered,” he said. This spring, he took part in a TH!NK workshop, a week-long training session designed to teach faculty skills to foster students’ higher order critical and creative thinking; he is excited to utilize these skills in class this fall.

He has won a number of awards for his dedication to his students and the university, including the Ephraim I. Schecter Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Assessment in 2005; the Division of Undergraduate Academic Programs Award for outstanding contributions to undergraduate education at NC State in 2008; the Gertrude Cox Award for Innovative Excellence in Teaching and Learning with Technology in 2012; and the Chancellor’s Creating Community Award for Outstanding Faculty in 2015 for his commitment to diversity at NC State.

He is the co-inventor on eight patents and one pending patent application, a novel hernia mesh he developed with Knitting Laboratory manager Brian Davis and the director of plastic surgery research at Duke University Medical Center; he is also co-author of more than 30 published peer-reviewed research articles.

As a student at Clemson, he was encouraged by his professor, the late Dr. Ed Vaughn, director of the School of Textiles, who recommended him for a position at NC State as a full-time instructor and part-time Ph.D. student in the fledgling Textile Engineering program. Rust had a strong mentor in Vaughn, who offered him some sage advice he passes on today.

“When great opportunity falls into your lap, don’t be afraid to grab it and run with it even though it isn’t what you had planned for all along…and great opportunities fall into your lap more often if you work hard to be successful in whatever you were doing before,” he said.