New engineering professors get a glimpse of faculty’s long-term plans

New engineering professors gathered at a (New) Faculty Forum to learn about the Faculty of Engineering’s long-term plans, and about research resources and policies and regulations dealing with students.

Edmonton—New professors in the Faculty of Engineering were given a glimpse of long-term plans for the faculty, during the first in a series of forums intended to help new faculty members thrive.

The first of seven (New) Faculty Forums scheduled for this term was reserved for new professors and featured presentations by Dean of Engineering  David Lynch and associate deans Steve Dew (research and planning) and Ken Porteous (student and co-op services).

Dean Lynch talked about the importance of focusing on outstanding teaching and research practices and addressed the Faculty of Engineering’s plans for growth, noting that universities in general are “the last bastions of long-term focus that results in long-term effects.”

He called on the professors to excel in both teaching and research in order to have a long-term impact on the world.

Lynch frequently meets engineering alumni during his travels and he knows that professors have an enduring influence on their students.

“There isn’t an alumni out there who doesn’t remember, for good or bad, their professors. And as a professor you end up remembering all of them too; but the students you interact with remember it times 10 . . . once a student gets an education here they are changed for life—this isn’t a short-term change, you are truly transforming their lives,” he said.

Touching on the satisfaction he gets from the senior-level course he teaches every week, Lynch remarked on the term “teaching load” and its negative connotation: “It isn’t a ‘load’—it’s something you want to do,” he said.

The responsibility of the Dean and senior administrators, he said, is “to make it possible for you to do your jobs, to remove the things that might keep you from doing a great job, to do the things that an individual faculty member can’t do.”

With today’s newspaper headlines warning of impending cutbacks in provincial spending, the university will soon be abuzz with debates over spending and uncertainty over the impact of potential cutbacks. But Lynch noted that the Faculty of Engineering makes “an unequivocal commitment” when it hires new professors that as long as they meet performance expectations they will have a place as faculty members.

“There has never been an individual let go due to financial issues,” he said.

Lynch’s habit, however,  is to consider longer term planning. It isn’t what happens in the coming months that will make a difference, he observes, but what happens in the coming decades. While some organizations divide their funding into ever-shrinking slices of pie, he said, the Faculty of Engineering finds ways to make the pie bigger. Working with funding agencies and industrial partners has proven to be an effective strategy. Since Lynch was first named Dean of Engineering in 1994, the faculty has experienced incredible growth, despite going through unfavourable economic periods. 

“In the Faculty of Engineering we see optimism,” he said, citing ongoing construction of the Innovation Centre for Engineering and the growing ranks of professors. More than 70 of about 200 professors in the faculty have been hired since 2008. Over the past five years, the number of new professors has grown by about 20 per year—and growth will continue at that pace, he said.

Each professor, he added, brings a unique set of talents and expertise to the faculty.

“You are the leaders,” he said. “The reason that we hired you is that you know what the next generation of engineers needs to know.”

Copies of the presentations are available at the (New) Faculty Forums presentation site.

Held in ETLC 6-60 from 11:30 a.m. – 1 p.m., six more (New) Faculty Forums are scheduled into the spring:

Jan 22 – Recruiting and Growing Great Graduate Students

Feb. 5 – Active Learning and Student Engagement

Feb. 26 – Grants and Developing Collaborations

March 12 – Design of Effective Examples: Bloom’s Cognitive Levels and Learning Objectives

March 26 (for newer faculty, by invitation only) – Understanding the Faculty Evaluation Committee

April 9 – Safety Leadership Workshop