11-3-16 Dean's Corner | Engineering | SIU

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November 03, 2016

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Deans Corner: College facing down challenges

This year all colleges at SIUC have been challenged by a 10% reduction in our budgets along with the continued uncertainty of future funding levels.  I am nonetheless very proud of how our college has addressed these difficult challenges.  In short, we have confronted these problems in typical engineering fashion, using data and modeling to understand the potential impacts of reduced funding while applying the resulting understanding in a strategic manner.

Over the summer I worked collaboratively with all COE department chairs to develop our strategies, with the overarching goal of maintaining the quality of education we offer.  Prior to the imposed budget reductions our undergraduate student population had grown to over 1,000.  It became clear that to maintain quality under our reduced budget we needed to reduce the number of undergraduate students served.  Our new undergraduate student enrollment goal is 900, thereby ensuring reasonable class sizes and high quality faculty to student ratios.  Going forward we will remain focused upon quality, which includes attracting and retaining a diverse group of talented and highly motivated students.  As a tangible example of our efforts towards student success, our freshman engineering retention rate for last year was over 80% and was the highest on campus!

Maintaining quality or excellence comes down to dedicated people (students, staff, and faculty).  In this edition of Vector we once again focus upon our people.  First, we highlight a recently graduated undergraduate student or new alum, Mr. Nigel Cardriche.  Nigel is an excellent example of the dedication to push through challenges which is shared by many of our students.   We then shift attention to our dedicated faculty by exposing the collaborative research efforts of Dr. Yanna Liang (Professor, Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering) and Dr. Satya Harpalani (Professor, Department of Mining and Mineral Resources Engineering) in the area of coal bio-gasification.  Dr. Liang presented this work at our recent SIU Technology & Innovation Expo in Chicago.  We then move onto a very inspiring story of ongoing dedication to our college by former dean Dr. Juh Wah Chen and his wife Han Lin Chen.  The Chens had such a positive and enduring impact on our college which will now continue in perpetuity via the newly established “Chen Engineering Excellence Fund.”  Our college is presently home to two major (~$1M each) NSF S-STEM grants: one focusing upon energy (Dr. Fran Harackiewicz, Principal Investigator) and the second focusing upon leadership (Dr. Bruce DeRuntz, Principal Investigator).   The next article focuses upon the second grant that was awarded recently.  Finally, we end with a story regarding the outstanding dedication of current students participating in our ASCE Student Chapter.  For the first time in the history of our college both the Concrete Canoe and Steel Bridge teams won their regional competition last spring and went on to compete at nationals over the summer!

These are most certainly challenging times.  However, we can all gain inspiration from our colleagues.  We can all appreciate that collectively we will succeed regardless of the circumstances that confront us.  Simply put, as engineers, that is what we are trained to do.  GO DAWGS!!!