Dr. Mahesh Daas is an entrepreneurial leader, designer, thinker, and scholar whose design and leadership career spans two decades. He is well known across the international design landscape for innovation in design computing, architectural robotics, design theory, leadership, and innovation methods. He is the author of the book Leading with Aesthetics: The Transformational Leadership of President Charles M. Vest at MIT (from Lexington Books) that presents a new approach to higher education leadership informed by frameworks from design, management, philosophy, political science, and psychodynamics.
Determined to rise above his modest roots in India, Daas earned his bachelor’s degree in architecture at Jawaharlal Nehru Technological University, India, with an A.P. Riding Club Gold Medal in 1990. That same fortitude led him to immigrate to the United States, earning a master’s of architecture in urban design from Kansas State University, and an executive doctoral degree in higher education management from the University of Pennsylvania.
Daas is the dean of the School of Architecture, Design & Planning at the University of Kansas, Lawrence. The pioneering school is noted for its national distinction in design, design-build, health and wellness, planning policy, and innovation.
Daas previously served the Chairperson of Indiana’s only state-supported Department of Architecture at Ball State University since 2008, also serving two years concurrently as the inaugural Emerging Media Fellow of the university’s Center for Media Design. Under his leadership the department has come to be widely known for excellence in digital fabrication and social justice in design. He teaches courses in design thinking, innovation methods, advanced digital fabrication, and leadership.
He has raised funds, and led major curricular changes, and other innovative initiatives to entrepreneurially grow and advance department’s operations. He is the founder of An Inconvenient Studio that educates and partners with professional firms, academic institutions, and corporations (including aerospace, industrial fabrics, hardwood industries) that resulted in educational sponsorships and cutting edge collaborative research opportunities.
Prior to joining Ball State, Daas served as the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Research of the College of Architecture at the University of Texas at San Antonio, and as a Visiting Assistant Professor at Kansas State University. He also worked with professional firms in Chicago and Kansas City (Gould Evans Goodman Associates). At the University of Texas at San Antonio, he helped grow the college enrollment by 285% in three years while simultaneously increasing selectivity from open admissions to 60%. Faculty research productivity grew by 800%.
Daas publishes widely in scholarly and popular forums and has delivered keynote speeches at conferences across the world. In addition to over 80 refereed scholarly or design works. Throughout his career, Daas has been honored for his exceptional creative achievements, leadership, and innovative approach to teaching. In 2011, he became only the second person of Asian origin and the youngest educator to be named an Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture (ACSA) Distinguished Professor, one of the highest national recognitions for an architectural educator. Less than 2.5% of architectural educators have been so honored since the inception of the ACSA national career awards program in 1984. The Association for Computer Aided Design in Architecture (ACADIA) has twice elected him as its president, and recognized his leadership in 2013 with the ACADIA Society Award of Excellence.
At the University of Texas at San Antonio, he won the President’s Distinguished Achievement Award for Creative Production. Additionally, he is a co-recipient of a 2001 Kansas City AIA Merit Award for the Baron BMW Dealership building in Merriam, Ks; and a 2007 recipient of International Fabrics Foundation Outstanding Achievement Award for the design and construction of Advanced Fabrics Exhibition.
Daas has been actively involved with federal funding agencies. He has been a peer reviewer for the National Science Foundation and served on an NSF delegation to Israel in 2010 to explore bilateral research opportunities in sustainable materials and technologies. In 2011, he chaired an NSF symposium and workshop on Materials and Manufacturing for Extreme Affordability at Ball State. Daas also has served on research review panels for the Canadian government.
Daas is involved in a broad range of professional organizations, including the Association for Computer Aided Design in Architecture (ACADIA), Association for Robotics in Architecture, International Digital Media and Arts Association, and International Journal of Architectural Computing.
His creative spirit extends beyond his work–Daas is also an award winning creative writer and poet with a particular interest in Latin American existentialist and magic realist literature.
Photo: Steve Puppe