With 150 years of innovation under its belt, the College of
Engineering was toasted by students and faculty yesterday at its
sesquicentennial celebration.

The milestone comes at a crossroads in the program’s history, as
the faculty and administration plan to improve upon the school’s
academic environment.

Among the school’s strengths, many students mentioned its
resources and opportunities, such as the Media Union and a large
number of clubs and projects.

“The College of Engineering has a lot of opportunities,”
Engineering Council President Chitra Laxmanan said. “We have over
70 societies and organizations for students to join, so besides
getting a great education, we take on more.”

Engineering senior Jia Lu, Institute of Electrical and
Electronics Engineers co-chair, echoed this statement.

“Some of the opportunities here are unrivaled,” Lu said. “A lot
of companies come here to use our extensive resources, because we
use multi-million dollar equipment.”

But when asked about the faculty, students were more divided.
Though many agreed that the professors are among the best in the
world, many also noted the lack of faculty-student interaction.
Often the professors’ focus is on graduate students, some said.

“The professors can be really focused on providing research
data, writing papers, publishing and less focused on teaching
students,” mechanical engineering senior Vernon Newhouse said. “A
lot of them are more focused on the Ph.D. students, who are doing
research and do not need to learn the basic information.”

Prof. Dennis Assanis, chairman of the Mechanical Engineering
Department, said in response, “This does happen quite a bit. If you
look at individual professors, there might be some who prefer to do
research. One might say that’s where their heart lies. They might
not necessarily have the gift to be the best teachers.”

At the time of its sesquicentennial, students and staff seem
proud of the college’s reputation for academic excellence, close
ties with the industry and other public services and its dedicated
faculty. But professors see the need for improvement.

“We are at the forefront of public service, transferring the
technology we have to the industry and doing good things for the
country,” Assanis said. “We need to continue to strive for
excellence in the face of very tough competition and budget

Even amid the event’s fanfare, behind the scenes the college is
busy making improvements.

“The college is engaged in a strategic planning exercise and is
going into an implementation phase. We are going to improve
communication between schools, improve the faculty environment and
focus on undergraduate education,” said Dean Stephen Director.
“Seven years ago, we implemented a new undergraduate initiative,
and we need to step back and see how it’s doing.”

Since the University offered its first engineering course in
civic engineering in 1854, the college has made significant
advances in science and responded well to the growing demands of
industry. “Our size and scope allows us to offer a large variety of
outstanding programs,” Director said. “We are here to perform
important, relevant research. We have laid out a five-year plan and
continue to strive for excellence.”

At the event on the North Campus Diag, student groups sought to
recruit new members, continuing the tradition of student
involvement at the college.

Director and an alum of the school cut a large celebratory
birthday cake, after two engineering seniors led the crowd in a
verse of “Happy Birthday, College of Engineering.”

As to the future of the engineering program, Director promised
to focus on computer science and information technology, biomedical
engineering and nanotechnology.








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