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Ron Vetter, CSE Founding Dean

Dr. Ron Vetter, College of Science and Engineering Founding Dean
Dr. Ron Vetter, College of Science and Engineering Founding Dean
Photo: Jeff Janowski

Ron Vetter believes change offers opportunities for improvement – in technology and in life. 

“Every five years or so, you have to reinvent yourself,” he said. “If you don’t, you get stagnant.” 

For nearly three decades, Vetter has taken on administrative and leadership positions, allowing him to grow as a scholar and educator. He served as the first permanent chair of the Department of Computer Science, director of the master’s program in Computer Science and Information Systems, and as the associate provost for research and dean of the Graduate School. He also surpassed the $5 million mark in external research funding and started two technology companies.  

His latest reinvention landed him the job as founding dean of the College of Science and Engineering (CSE). The university announced in April that two new colleges would emerge from the College of Arts and Sciences — the College of Science and Engineering and the College of Humanities, Social Sciences, and the Arts. Both were established on July 1.  

“This is an exciting time at UNCW,” said Vetter. “The creation of two new colleges will bring additional opportunities to the university, and I look forward to being part of that future.” 

Vetter’s first task as founding dean is to ensure a smooth transition for faculty, staff and students within CSE.  Most importantly, Vetter wants to create a shared vision and identity for the new college that supports the goals of the university’s new Strategic Plan. 

“I want to get reacquainted with the eight academic departments in CSE and get a better sense of the current strengths and aspirations of the academic units outside of my home department,” said Vetter. “My vision for the college is to excel in teaching, advance research activity and develop new academic degree programs.” 

To make certain students will have a strong voice, the college is establishing a student advisory board with representatives from all academic departments.  

A native of North Dakota, Vetter grew up on a large farm, an experience that shaped his work ethic from an early age. His innate curiosity about “how things work” —  especially radios, TVs and electronics — prompted a high school teacher to steer Vetter toward computer science, a new field in the early 1980s, at North Dakota State University, where he earned undergraduate and graduate degrees. He obtained a Ph.D. in computer science from the University of Minnesota. 

After finishing his doctoral degree, Vetter selected UNCW over job offers from institutions in other cities, such as San Diego, Calif., because he liked the university’s focus on teaching and research. Aside from a brief return to his alma mater to lead a research program, Vetter has been at UNCW ever since. The opportunity to work collaboratively with students, faculty and university administration is among his favorite things about academia.  

“I enjoy the conversation, the challenges, and creating new opportunities with others,” Vetter said.   

As an identical twin from a family of 14, collaboration comes naturally to Vetter. 

“I grew up on a family farm,” he said, “which means we all had to negotiate, accept each other’s differences, and work together for the common good, just like we do at the university.”