Skip to main content
August 7, 2023

Preparing the next generation of Badger engineers: Harrington leads CEE forward as 16th chair

Written By: Amanda Thuss


Professor Greg Harrington brings a wealth of teaching and leadership experience to his new role as the 16th chair of civil and environmental engineering (CEE) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

A faculty member since 1996, Harrington has been a champion of growth in the CEE Department for nearly three decades. After guiding the launch of a new undergraduate degree in environmental engineering and a certificate program in architecture, he is ready for a new challenge and looks forward to the future of CEE at UW-Madison.

“Our profession has the core purpose of engineering for public good. We create solutions that value and sustain the health, safety, and welfare of civil society and the environment. It’s a rewarding field with countless career opportunities for new civil and environmental engineers,” he shares.

Driving the need for new engineers is a unique set of circumstances that is challenging the industry in new and evolving ways.

“Challenges like climate change, increasingly limited natural and financial resources, and a decades-long lack of investment in civil infrastructure have created opportunities to solve complex problems in a sustainable way. These challenges combined with significant rates of retiring engineers have created a need for new civil and environmental engineers that is unprecedented in my 38 years in the profession,” says Harrington.

Prior to his role as department chair, Harrington served as associate chair of CEE undergraduate programs for 15 years. During this time, he led the review and update of civil engineering undergraduate degree requirements with input from faculty and professional engineering community partners.

He also built partnerships with practicing engineers and alumni, as well as community-based partners like the UniverCity Alliance and the Morgridge Center for Public Service, that connect current students with the technical and professional aspects of real-world practice. Through these partnerships, CEE’s senior capstone design course has become a model of its kind among peers with seven engineering education awards from the National Council for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES).

2018 UW-Madison NCEES award-winning team
Harrington, pictured here with members of the 2018 NCEES award-winning team, will accept the department’s seventh NCEES award this fall.

“Building partnerships with professional practitioners and community-based organizations is among the most rewarding aspects of my career. These partners help our students understand and appreciate that engineering goes beyond the application of math and science to solve problems. It’s also about ethics, management, leadership, citizenship, communication, collaboration, and lifelong learning. As a Wisconsin native, I have long admired the Wisconsin Idea, and partnerships are one way we put that idea into practice.”

Outside of class and away from his office, Harrington is active and engaged in service for the UW-campus and City of Madison.

Following 11 years on the Board of the Madison Water Utility, including a two-year term as president, Harrington currently serves as a member of its Water Quality Technical Advisory Committee. He also facilitates leadership education opportunities in the College of Engineering and co-leads the triennial campus-wide implementation of the Multi-Institutional Study of Leadership as chair of the Pieper Family Foundation Endowment for Servant Leadership. His service has been recognized with awards from the university’s College of Engineering and Division of Student Life, as well as AWWA’s Wisconsin Section.

Harrington’s research focuses on the treatment, distribution, energy use and regulatory policy of drinking water systems. Three of his publications won national awards from the American Water Works Association (AWWA).

Locally, Harrington’s graduate students helped Madison Water Utility improve water quality and reduce electricity costs. His dedication to teaching has been recognized with awards from students for outstanding instruction and from the College of Engineering for innovative teaching and learning practices.

He holds an undergraduate degree in chemical engineering from Stanford University, along with MS and PhD degrees in environmental engineering from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Prior to UW-Madison, Harrington was a consulting engineer with Malcolm Pirnie (now part of Arcadis) for four years. During this time, he led the creation of a computer program used to develop federal regulations for the control of disinfectants and disinfection byproducts in drinking water systems.