May 27, 2017



OPINION

ENGINEERING SCHOOL DEPARTMENT CHAIRS: Why form a new department

Faculty from the Engineering School are eager to open the conversation to all

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Against the backdrop of society’s critical need for knowledge and future leaders in STEM, the University is making historic levels of investment in engineering.


As faculty from the Engineering School’s Departments of Systems & Information Engineering, Civil & Environmental Engineering and Engineering & Society explore a new partnership, students, alumni and The Cavalier Daily’s editorial board have contributed concerns and excellent questions. We welcome this participation in the discussion, and we write to share the important reasons why faculty are considering the idea of forming a new department.

Against the backdrop of society’s critical need for knowledge and future leaders in STEM, the University is making historic levels of investment in engineering. Faculty are taking this opportunity to generate new ideas for transforming our School into an institution that is nationally recognized both for educating global engineering leaders and for pursuit of new knowledge that makes a positive difference in the world.

The faculty dialogue has yielded a vision for a new department chartered with faculty members from Systems & Information and Civil & Environmental Engineering focused on Human-and Socio-Technical Systems Engineering. The vision does not include any changes to student degree programs — students would continue to earn the highly valued undergraduate and graduate degrees in Systems Engineering and Civil Engineering, with all of the rigorous curriculum and projects which support their learning specific to their degree programs.

Our vision is to bring even greater value to the degree programs with the innovation and collaboration that will help students keep pace with global trends. The faculty’s analysis has shown that engineers in these departments are well-positioned to team up for a powerful new perspective, because we approach decision and design challenges mainly from the standpoint of first identifying ways to contribute to human and societal value, and then developing and integrating the technologies that comprise novel solutions to real problems. Outside the University, the rise of big data, cyber-physical systems, autonomous vehicles and other technologies has changed how systems are born and used in ways that present new and exciting roles for our engineers as practitioners and researchers. Employers tell us they need our graduates to be able to lead in this advanced environment. The new partnership would allow us to offer students additional learning experiences and cutting-edge projects in a collaborative academic setting designed to inspire teaching and research excellence among our faculty.

As our dialogue and analysis continue, and as we prepare to make a recommendation to Engineering Dean Craig Benson about whether to pursue the new department, we invite all to read our frequently asked questions document. Students may to provide comments and questions here, and alumni may participate here.

Brian L. Smith is the chair of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University.

Peter A. Beling is the interim chair of the Department of Systems & Information Engineering at the University.

W. Bernard Carlson is the chair of the Department of Engineering and Society at the University.


Published May 11, 2017 in Guest, Opinion









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