Engineering Deans from Across the Country Convene at USD

On an atypically dreary recent San Diego morning, the first floor of the Cymer Ideation Space in the Shiley-Marcos School of Engineering was a bright, buzzing beehive of energy. Student groups chatted excitedly about fine-tuning final projects while professors watched their progress intently, waiting to jump in if and when questions were raised.

A few strides down the hall in a corner classroom, a different, but by no means less important discussion took place, one that will help pave the School of Engineering’s path forward into the future. Deans of engineering schools from across the country gathered to join host and USD School of Engineering Dean Chell Roberts for the Engineering Deans of Catholic Colleges and Universities (EDCU) conference, a three-day event created to help establish best practices in academics and administration, while being mindful of the respective school’s commitment to upholding the Catholic values their parent institutions are founded on.

“The goal of the conference is to bring together deans because we feel like we have some commonality in values, in the things that we do,” Roberts said. “The first meetings were exploratory; identifying what issues we share, and how we can address those issues collectively.”

The EDCU tackles a host of issues ranging from recruitment and retention to international study abroad opportunities. This year, an additional topic point is the impact of Laudato si, Pope Francis’ call for a “broad cultural revolution” to confront the environmental issues that plague our planet. Roberts and his fellow deans see the pope’s declarations as an opportunity to shape the hearts and minds of the next generation of engineers.

“What the pope discusses in Laudato si is inextricably tied to the principles of humanitarian engineering; which is research and design developed to improve the well being of underserved communities,” Roberts said. “We want to explore how that will impact the type of education we are providing our students, now and in the future.”

In addition to the Laudato si discussion, the group covered topics such as best practices in generating revenue, hiring new faculty and developing graduate programs. Roberts says that there are around two dozen engineering schools housed within Catholic colleges and universities in the U.S., and he’s hopeful each and every one of them will participate in future EDCU conferences. “We compare notes and attempt to homogenize what we’re doing is some areas so the schools as a collective can benefit. That’s something everyone should want to be a part of.”

— Mike Sauer