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GUEST COLUMN: We’re golden: Celebrating 50 years as a Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science

Memorial University’s St. John’s campus.
Memorial University’s St. John’s campus. - Joe Gibbons

By Greg F. Naterer

During the fall of 1969, a new Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science welcomed 155 students into a full engineering program for the first time at Memorial University. From 1930-1969, engineering students completed an engineering diploma at Memorial, with the option to move out of the province to receive their engineering degree.

On this special occasion of the upcoming 50th anniversary, it’s a privilege to reflect back on the remarkable successes and contributions of Memorial engineering to Newfoundland and Labrador.

Dr. Thomas H. Winter was Memorial’s first engineering professor in 1930. Dr. Stanley J. Carew joined in 1941 and a second professor, John M. Facey, arrived in 1946.

In 1949, Memorial University College became a full-fledged university and was renamed Memorial University of Newfoundland.

The engineering department became part of the Faculty of Applied Science with Carew as its first dean, from 1950-1968. By 1966, there were six engineering faculty members and over 400 students.

Seeing this growth and increasingly important role of engineering in the province, in 1962 Carew proposed an expansion of the diploma program to a full-degree program. Dr. Moses Morgan, vice-president, was supportive and solicited concepts from engineering deans at Ontario universities, including Dr. Doug Wright, University of Waterloo.

Wright had recently developed a co-operative engineering program. He recommended Dr. Angus Bruneau from the University of Waterloo to lead Memorial’s new Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science.

Bruneau served as founding dean from 1969-1974. There were initially three undergraduate programs (civil, electrical and mechanical) and one master’s program (ocean engineering). In 1971, Memorial launched its first doctor of philosophy (PhD) degree in ocean engineering.

When the undergraduate co-op program was first granted accreditation by the Canadian Accreditation Board for a full five-year period in 1975, the chair of the review committee noted that the curriculum design at Memorial was one of the finest he had seen in Canada.

Over the decades, several new programs were introduced — shipbuilding engineering in 1982 (changed to ocean and naval architectural engineering in 1997, the only co-op program in this discipline in North America), computer engineering in 1991, new professional course-based programs in 2004 and process engineering in 2008.

From its humble beginning in 1930 with just 13 students and one professor, the faculty has grown to 18 degree programs across nine disciplines. Today, with over 1,300 undergraduate and 700 graduate students and over $15 million a year in research funding, Memorial engineering is recognized nationally as one of the premier engineering programs in the country.

Some areas have changed dramatically since 1969, including enrolments, faculty complement and research, and diversity of faculty and students. With only one female student in the class of 1969, today Memorial engineering is a leader of student diversity and women in engineering.

For the forth consecutive year, the province had the highest percentage of female undergraduate engineering students nationally, at 27 per cent. The faculty has graduate students from over 30 countries.

Although some areas have changed substantially, other areas, like quality and commitment to excellence, have not. Our professors are internationally renowned in their research fields and our students are second to none.

The undergraduate co-op programs have received continuous accreditation from the Canadian Engineering Accreditation Board since 1975, as well as the Canadian Association for Co-operative Education.

Experiential learning and co-operative education have remained a focus and priority over the decades. Since 1969, Memorial Engineering has placed thousands of co-op students worldwide in over 40 countries on six continents. In 2018, over 1,200 co-op students were placed into work terms.

Engineering graduates from Memorial have made immeasurable contributions to the economic, environmental and social well-being of the province.

In today’s global economy, engineering is a key driver of a more innovative, diversified and knowledge-based economy. As Maclean’s magazine wrote —“to compete globally, you need to stay ahead. The secret to building an innovative economy – in a word: engineers.”

In a future world with technologies beyond our imagination, engineers will work at the forefront of making the world a better place. Looking forward to the next 50 years, the opportunities for Memorial Engineering are brighter than ever! For information and tickets to our 50th anniversary events, go to https://www.mun.ca/engineering/community/alumni/anniversary/.

Prof. Greg F. Naterer is dean of Memorial University’s Faculty of Engineering and Applied science. He writes from St. John’s

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