Exciting times in engineering

The Telegram
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I am writing in response to P.C. Helwig’s letter published in the July 22 edition of The Telegram. In particular, I would like to correct a factual error and to address some of the author’s concerns.

There is a tuition differential for international students at Memorial University, as there is at most other Canadian universities. However other fees (including residence, student union and recreation) are charged to all students at the same rate. But, even with the differential, Memorial is one of the most affordable options in Canada for international students.

The issue of engineering expansion at Memorial was raised in Helwig’s letter. Our strategic plan, entitled Vision 2020 (developed in 2013), includes an increase of graduates of undergraduate programs from approximately 170 to 250 per year by 2020, or an increase of about 10 graduates per year. It was developed in extensive consultation with faculty, staff, students, co-op coordinators, industry and other stakeholders. It was fully supported and encouraged by industry, government, the university and a wide range of stakeholders to meet the province’s needs for more engineers and engineering capacity, in response to the thriving offshore oil, ocean technology and other sectors.

Given that our projected rate of increase does not even keep pace with the more rapid rise of registrations of engineers observed by the Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of Newfoundland and Labrador, our planned increase is sustainable and necessary, especially when considering the far more rapid growth of massive engineering activities and capacities in the province, now, and for the foreseeable future.

We plan to grow our wonderful co-operative education program in tandem with student enrolment to provide the resources necessary to develop and monitor co-op placements. We successfully placed our engineering co-op students on work terms throughout the “double cohort” which graduated in 2013. This double cohort was larger than the projected number of students to be placed in 2020. Although there certainly will be challenges along the way, the engineering opportunities in our province and beyond are far greater, and that the future economic growth of our province relies, to a significant extent, on the growth of engineering capacity. For example, offshore development and exploration in the North Atlantic are among the most challenging technically in the world — deep waters, icebergs, harsh environment, ocean waves exceeding 25 metres in height — but Memorial engineering is up to the challenge!

The faculty of engineering and applied science has developed strategies to ensure higher enrolment does not come at the expense of lower admission standards — new initiatives to increase student success and reduce attrition in the first year of the program; working with the Marine Institute and the College of the North Atlantic on a bridging program that would allow high-performing college graduates to complete an engineering degree following their technology diploma; developing new programs and streams, such as a planned new program in petroleum engineering; and engaging in a more proactive recruitment effort outside the province. Through these initiatives and others, the faculty will be able to expand its enrolments while maintaining among the highest admission standards of engineering schools in Canada.

Ensuring international students have access to the resources they need to integrate effectively into our community is a priority of Memorial University. The university is in the process of developing an internationalization plan that will guide the university’s planning in various aspects of international activity, including teaching and learning; research; and public engagement.

This is an exciting time for the faculty of engineering and applied science and Memorial University! The growth of engineering capacity will be a significant positive driver of innovation, diversification, entrepreneurship and continued rapid growth of our provincial economy. We are working towards our goal of becoming one of the most distinguished universities and engineering schools in Canada while responding to the unique challenges and opportunities facing our province.

 

Dr. Greg F. Naterer

MUN dean of engineering and applied science

Organizations: College of the North Atlantic, Professional Engineers, Marine Institute

Geographic location: Canada, Helwig, Newfoundland and Labrador North Atlantic

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  • Work to be done
    July 30, 2014 - 14:10

    This is a great discussion (both letters) about Engineering Education in our Society. When I went through one or two Professors pushed for a program or lectures or electives to allow students to study "The role/effect that technology has with/on society". The options included electives in Economics, Philosophy and lecturers ranging from veteran Engineers to local poets and authors. Maybe the authors of the letters did not formally study Engineering in such a context? My father gave me a copy of Fortune magazine circa 1971(?). The issue and the article had the theme "Re-designing the Engineer". It observed how industry and society calls for engineers in quantity but they have no social obligation to guarantee more training or other employment after the engineers have actually "solved" the particular problem. A little dramatic perhaps, but the article noted how the engineer who designed the Apollo guidance systems were watching the later moon landings on the tv monitor in the unemployment office. The comment was that now that the program was successful it was a one of a "scientific achievement" with the engineers working out the details, so to speak. There was also a report in the late 1960's (I ought not name the author as I do not remember the details precisely) that thought that MUN's Engr program ought to one of "applied science" (NA model) as opposed to "university educated technicians" (European traditional model??). If the program wished to lean on the academic side as opposed to the vocational side (feeding industry), the COOP program might need some adjustments. (1) The students, esp foreign, ought to able to do academic terms if unsuitable(or no employment) is available(i.e. the student could graduate with only academic terms, but those with two years work terms would have a premium bachelor degree) and (2) the university has to monitor the students on the job to ensure that they are using their university skills and the environment is safe. Perhaps the medical model of intern and resident rotation or law school graduates articling may not be appropriate but It appears that the status quo for engineering schools might need some work. The next course added should be the "effect that Society has on engineers and engineering" ?!

  • Nichol
    July 28, 2014 - 08:07

    Yes, Dr. Haterer....there are exciting challenges ahead for engineers. Unfortunately, who makes MUN, as you say, " one of the most affordable options in Canada for international students"? Sadly, the answer to that question is...funding from a Province running consecutive deficit budgets...of $500 million this year alone. That, and the highest unemployment rate in Canada, makes it seem to me, every time I drive over crumbling Provincially maintained highways, that the options available for my tax dollars are somewhat misdirected. In other words, I don't give a damn about international students unless the Provinces own people and infrastructure are taken care of ....first. Selfish and curmudgeonly...you bet!

  • MUN Engineering Grad
    July 28, 2014 - 07:08

    well that cements it, 25 meter waves, we got to flood the market with engineers.