After 16 years at Tulsa Tech, Leo Van Delft was ready to challenge himself in a new way, so he applied and accepted the position as dean of OSU Institute of Technology School of Automotive Technologies.
Van Delft has owned his auto repair business for 30 years, growing and expanding it to the point where it ran like a well-oiled machine. He then turned to teaching automotive repair at Tulsa Tech’s Broken Arrow campus.
“As the business grew, you can explore other opportunities. Teaching was a way of giving back to the industry that helped me,” Van Delft said.
He was an instructor for six years and then coordinator for 10 years and was instrumental in putting together Tulsa Tech’s alternative fuel program, the first in Oklahoma.
Van Delft said he became familiar with OSUIT through CareerTech and by sitting in on advisory board meetings, so when the dean position came available it piqued his interest.
“I was looking for a new challenge,” he said, and with just a few weeks under his belt, he’s already beginning to form new strategies for how to expand and grow the automotive programs.
“My number one priority is recruitment of students. I also want to increase our presence throughout the state,” Van Delft said, and even further. “I want to bring national prominence to this school and you read about us in the trade journals and publications.”
Dr. Scott Newman, vice president of academic affairs, said a number of people with academic and professional backgrounds applied for the dean position, but Van Delft’s experience in both sectors set him apart.
“Leo’s strong background in automotive education, his familiarity with OSUIT School of Automotive Technologies and his sense of where the industry is headed were all key factors in his selection as dean,” Newman said.
OSUIT’s partnerships with auto manufacturers and dealerships give it a unique edge when it comes to skills and job placement.
“We can provide the specific training a manufacturer needs in its technicians,” he said. “Specialized training is what it’s all about.”
In his 30 years in the industry, Van Delft has seen an evolution in the field of automotive repair.
“Everything is so high tech and everything has an electronics component to it. You have to have skilled technicians that understand the electronics of a car,” he said. “It’s not just about changing brake pads and rotating tires anymore. The skills required to fix these cars, they’re more engineer than technician.”
The industry will continue to evolve as development of more alternative fuels and self-driving cars progress.
“We’re already teaching about hybrid electric vehicles and natural gas vehicles. These are transitional technologies when it comes to alternative fuels,” Van Delft said.
And OSUIT School of Automotive Technologies will continue to evolve as well.
“Leo is well-connected to the automotive industry, is up to speed on current and emerging developments, and understands the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead,” Newman said.
Van Delft said he’s looking forward to the future of the automotive industry and OSUIT’s place in it.
“It’s not about looking in the rear-view mirror, but looking through the windshield,” he said. “We can’t do things the way we’ve always done them. We have to look forward.”