Darryl Butt: Finding one’s ‘professional self’

Where does a skilled painter, celebrated inter-disciplinary educator and dean of College of Mines & Earth Sciences (CMES) go to advance their career? In the case of Darryl Butt, he becomes the dean of the graduate school. University of Utah Provost Mitzi M. Montoya announced in March that Butt has accepted the offer and will ascend to his new role June 1.

Darryl Butt

Also current Director of the Center for Multi-Scale Fluid-Solid Interactions in Architected and Natural Materials Energy Frontier Research Center, Butt is a celebrated, interdisciplinary educator and oil painter. He promotes a de-silo-ed approach to looking at research problems and projects. Using a “flipped classroom” model and a dynamic (as in changeable, by all involved) syllabus, his vertically integrated approach flattens hierarchies, disassembles firewalls between disciplines, and encourages a sense of belonging among all students.

His monthly painting workshops in the CMES’s advising center are popular and creates a space for the scientifically minded and others to get out of their empirical box and into an integrated one, shot through with creativity, innovation and “flow.” It’s an approach inspired by the 15th century scientist and artist Leonardo da Vinci.

Butt joined the U in 2016 as professor of metallurgical engineering and college dean, establishing strategic plans to address safety and security; student, staff and faculty success; cross-campus collaboration; fiscal stewardship and transparency. Under his leadership, the EpiCenter, a hub of student activity and advising for the college, was created, and the departments of Metallurgical Engineering and Materials Science and Engineering were merged. Butt has also been instrumental in enabling the merger of the CMES and College of Science.

The Graduate School is arguably the perfect fit for Butt. It offers more than 200 graduate degrees and supports more than 8,400 students enrolled in programs that vary from Master of Architecture to a doctorate in Nuclear Engineering.  As dean he will assess ongoing improvements to all academic programs and centers at the U through the Graduate Council Review process and enable the development of interdisciplinary graduate programs for multi-college academic degrees and certificates. Dr. Peter Trapa, Dean of the College of Science, will assume leadership responsibilities of the College of Mines & Earth Sciences which merged last year with the College of Science.

“One of the joys I get from research is watching the development of students and postdocs and helping them find their ‘professional selves,’” says Butt. “I’m looking forward to being their advocate as well as supporting the incredible faculty and staff at the University in support of our ambitious research mission.”