In an academic system where specialization is inevitable, Tony Elam is what one might call a “deep generalist.” His lengthy career consists of ample experience in both industry and academia—a powerful combination that enables him to do what he does best: cross borders and create partnerships. As the college’s Director of Strategic Initiatives—a new position created by Dean John Walz— Elam’s diverse background will be a tremendous asset.
“I am a catalyst, a facilitator, an enabler,” Elam explains. “My role is to identify the research leaders within the college and then devise ways we can maximize their expertise through partnerships inside and outside the college.”
“There is so much potential for collaboration at UK and beyond,” says Walz. “What Tony brings to the table is the ability to scan not just the college, but also the university and corporate entities and understand where our engineering faculty can make a significant impact.”
After graduating from the University of Kentucky with a computer science degree in 1977, Elam embarked on a 20-year career at IBM where he worked on large, complex projects in conjunction with government agencies and national labs. Seeking a change of pace in the mid-90s, Elam took a leave of absence from IBM to become the Executive Director for the Computer and Technology Institute at Rice University in Houston and assumed responsibility for cultivating strategic partnerships. Not only did Elam help the institute triple its industrial research funding, he discovered he enjoyed the academic atmosphere and left IBM for good. In 2000, Rice named him associate dean of research for the College of Engineering. Several years later, Elam accepted an offer from the highly-respected Baylor College of Medicine, where he focused on developing high-leverage partnerships between medicine and engineering as the college’s Director for Strategic Initiatives. Elam is excited to operate in a similar capacity here at UK.
“We have a unique opportunity in that we have medicine, pharmacy, engineering, computer science, public health and agriculture—all outstanding programs—right here on campus. Our faculty’s depth of knowledge in areas such as data mining, regenerative medicine, bioinformatics, imaging etc., opens up many different avenues for making new discoveries and creating new technologies. That’s where I come in, and that’s what I most enjoy.”