DeMatteis Dean Sina Rabbany: Staying Relevant

Every spring I attend the Engineering Deans Institute annual meeting, where in addition to engaging in conversations with colleagues from institutions of all sizes from around the country, I have the opportunity to attend presentations which invariably provide new insight into how engineering education can adapt to serve our students better. This year’s meeting was held in San Antonio, Texas and focused on concepts such as incorporating critical problem solving skills and system-level thinking into the curriculum and developing coursework that is socially relevant. These concepts resonate with our faculty at the DeMatteis School and many can point to specific examples of how they have been employed in their teaching approaches.

As a dean, the question I ask myself is whether we impose overhauls to our curriculum that will incorporate these concepts, or do we simply encourage highly motivated faculty to innovate at their discretion?    In my experience, I believe that the latter approach is more conducive to a healthy regeneration of programs that might otherwise become stale and outmoded.

Let me cite a
few examples.

This fall’s incoming  first-year class is  the first cohort that will be able to participate in our OverSEAS program, an initiative spearheaded by Dr. Edward Segal, a faculty member in our civil engineering program. Professor Segal has prior experience working on engineering projects in countries throughout North Africa and Central America that benefit local communities through the construction of rope bridges to facilitate transportation. While many engineering schools offer opportunities for students to work on projects in less developed countries, what makes our OverSEAS program unique is that DeMatteis School students will also immerse themselves in the language, culture, history and economics of the target region before going abroad to do their capstone design project. The program was also created with a specific liberal arts focus (initially crafted around a Central/South American capstone project to be completed in Summer 2022) that will  help a select number of civil engineering students build stronger interpersonal skills and widen their worldview. These skills will  enable them to interact with the local population and work as key personnel on construction and engineering projects for companies with an international reach.

To benefit our students in all majors, we are also creating an Executive-in-Residence program which will invite experienced industry personnel to join us on campus for up to a week and share their experience and expertise. Participating executives can advise students on career choices, lecture on special topics of interest to students in their fields, and interact with faculty many of whom (by the nature of the academic profession) have only limited career experience outside the realm of academia. Opportunities for collaboration and future employment can emerge from these connections as well. Of course, many of the adjunct professors on our faculty  are professionals who work full-time in industries from traffic engineering to construction management to electronics, and are themselves a great resource for  students. But the Executive-in-Residence program allows more professionals to donate much more manageable periods of time to high impact interaction with our DeMatteis community.

This is my last blog of the 2018-2019 academic year, and I want to take this opportunity to extend my congratulations to all our graduates, and of course, hope that they all keep in touch with us over the ensuing years. This far and away is our largest graduating class. Last year we graduated 121 students, our previous record, and this year it will be approximately 160 young men and women whose hands I will be shaking as they cross the stage in the formal ceremony on Sunday, May 19th. If you are one of them, or a parent of one of them, remember that on Saturday, May 18th, we will be hosting our annual DeMatteis graduation luncheon on your behalf, and hope to see you there.

We are very proud of our graduates who are responsible for spreading the growing national reputation of the DeMatteis School into all corners of the globe!

Category - SEAS Dean’s Update

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