College of Engineering celebrates 100 years

Plans have been in the works for almost three years and now, the College of Engineering at the University of Saskatchewan is set to spend 2012 celebrating its 100th anniversary.

By Colleen MacPherson

"We wanted our centennial to be more than one event," said Ernie Barber, acting dean of the college, "so we decided to celebrate for the whole year." Centred on the theme Tradition, Innovation, Celebration, the college has put together a schedule of major events to mark the occasion but the anniversary will be infused into all aspects of college life over the coming year. It will be "a celebration of what engineers do, a celebration of students, a celebration of our place in the University of Saskatchewan."

Among the highlights of the year will be 2012 C.J. Mackenzie Gala of Engineering Excellence Jan. 17 which will feature civil engineering graduate Ron Graham as the distinguished lecturer. Sept. 20-23, the college will host an all-years alumni reunion with activities that include a site visit of Saskatoon's new Circle Drive bridge, class parties, guest speaker Steven Berlin Johnson and a special banquet. And, a commemorate history book of the college is in the works.

For Barber, who has recently had his appointment extended until July 2013 as the search continues for a permanent dean, it will be a year of marking tradition, which in the case of the College of Engineering, has always been innovation and looking to the future.

"I think especially in the first six months of the year, it will be critical for us to continue to raise the profile of the college at our university, and in our province. It's an opportunity to let the people of Saskatchewan, of our city and university know that we're something to be proud of."

Special attention will be paid to celebrating the successes of students (think ¼-scale tractor team, space design team and others). "This will be a chance to show off the things they do as students and engage them in the celebration." Engineering students are already sporting a line of centennial clothing "so the buzz is beginning."

But Barber cautioned that the number 100 is not the important point. "What matters is what happens on your birthday. Sometimes you get presents. Sometimes people say nice things about you. Sometimes family comes to visit. Sometimes people challenge you. If you focus on the centennial, it's a mistake but if you use the occasion to focus on the work being done, who we're thankful for, that's what will make this really special."

In addition to the celebrations at home, Barber will be taking the college on the road – to Victoria, Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Toronto, Ottawa and Regina – "to help alumni and partners experience centennial fever and all the things that come with friendship where they live and work."

The anniversary also creates an opportunity for the college to focus on fundraising, he said. While not a formal campaign, some priorities have been identified "so our alumni and friends can celebrate with us." Among the areas of fundraising focus are a new Centennial Scholarship Fund, the rejuvenation of the Peter N. Nikiforuk Innovative Teaching and Learning Centre, and expansion of the Engineering Advancement Trust to upgrade undergraduate laboratories.

In addition to all the specific centennial activities, Barber is hoping this year will see an end to some 10 years of continual examination of engineering space needs. A consultant's report is expected in the next several weeks that will detail "how we're using the space we have and how our needs are changing. It will be an opportunity to develop an infrastructure renewal and possibly a building plan to meet the needs of engineering, and to do things differently in the university environment."