Dr. Abdel-Fattah Mohamed Seyam has been appointed the new department head for Textile and Apparel, Technology and Management (TATM), effective January 1.
“Dr. Seyam brings a distinguished career and wealth of experience in research, education and service as a collaborative administrator and leader in enabling advancement of the textiles industry,” said Dr. David Hinks, dean of the Wilson College of Textiles. “He will be an outstanding leader for the TATM department and will foster professional development and success of TATM’s talented faculty, staff and students.”
Seyam, who served as TATM’s interim department head during the academic year 2012-2013, is looking forward to leading the interdisciplinary department.
“If you look at the TATM department, we really integrate many areas of fashion design, textile design, science, technology and management, and we are very blessed with a diverse faculty in terms of an interdisciplinary education — whether it is teaching, research or service to the industry,” he said. He plans to make several new hires in the coming months, and will focus on fostering student and faculty achievement and engagement.
Seyam, born and raised in Alexandria, Egypt, always knew he would study textiles. He had family and friends working in the textile field; as a youth, he toured local textile mills and was fascinated by the complex equipment.
“It is the most interesting machinery,” he said. “I saw car engines and machines that do a lot of things in my life, but when I looked at the textile machinery and how a textile machine handled individual fibers — imagine the million or billion fibers it can produce in a short time — I wanted to understand that…that’s what drove me to the textile discipline.”
He earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in textile engineering from the College of Engineering at Alexandria University in Alexandria, Egypt. He was an instructor at Alexandria University and Mansoura University, worked as a research engineer at Burlington Industries and was a project manager for Valdese Weavers in Valdese, North Carolina.
A faculty member in the Wilson College of Textiles since 1991, Seyam has written, co-authored and collaborated on hundreds of journal articles, book chapters and presentations, is the co-inventor on four patents and has written two software packages. He is Charles A. Cannon Professor of Textiles and an Alumni Distinguished Graduate professor in TATM, and over the years, he has mentored 111 master’s and doctoral students and 25 international visitors.
He came to NC State as Ph.D. student on a research assistantship for the now-retired Dr. Aly ElShiekh; he considered several universities, but chose the Wilson College of Textiles because of its international reputation. “Many graduates of this college are leaders in the textile industry,” he said. “That was the best advertisement.”
Although he felt welcome in North Carolina, he found his first semester here challenging as he became accustomed to American culture and to speaking English.
“Luckily, there was a person that I knew and he introduced me to other people from the same culture…but adjusting to the culture and the language was an issue,” he said.
His own experience as an international student in the 1980s has informed the way he receives students from around the world; he knows the difference it can make to a student to know they’re not alone.
“I decided, when I hire students from different places, we will have people from the same cultures to welcome them,” he said. “We are doing better university-wide. We realize how to get these people engaged and this could really make a big difference in their advancement and (ensuring they do) well in their studies.” He adds, “I feel I can really help students that come from different cultures for their degrees to understand U.S. culture.”
Seyam wants his students to feel welcome but not complacent; he challenges his advisees to push beyond their comfort zones by taking extra courses or adding a minor to improve their skills.
“Don’t take the minimum courses,” he said. “The minimal requirement is fine, but you should really think about taking a minor, taking another major. You’ll spend a little more money and a little more time, but you can be more diverse and this way, your (job) market value will go up.”
He keeps in touch with many of his former students around the world, some of whom are professors, department heads, research directors and deans.
“Students are our products and we select them from among the best — when they graduate, they represent us,” he said. “That’s what makes me really happy and satisfied — that I’ve done a good job with talented students. I’m proud to see they’re advancing in the way they are now.”