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Cover of the Winter 2009 issue


VOL. 35, NO. 2






A message from the dean

Dean Paul S. Peercy

Dean Paul S. Peercy (large image)

I have been spending a good deal of time recently thinking about future directions and business models for the College of Engineering. It caused me to reflect on the fact that the U.S. recently completed a historic presidential election. President Obama campaigned on a platform of “change” and his message apparently resonated with the American public.

Having won, Obama faces a daunting list of challenges that may be unprecedented. The global economy is in a deep recession as we attempt to recover from the global financial meltdown. At the same time, as a nation, we face enormous challenges in areas such as energy, the environment, sustainability, healthcare and national security.

The economy of Wisconsin obviously is not immune to these forces, nor is the University of Wisconsin-Madison. At a micro-scale, the challenges we face at UW-Madison are not too dissimilar from those we face as a nation. That is why we are deeply engaged in the campus-wide strategic planning process and thinking deeply about our own college business plan for next year.

As I listen to Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle discuss the current budget situation for the state and the budget crisis he and the administration are facing in the next biennium, I think we are in for a period of disruptive change.

Disruptive change means that our current system of doing business as usual will no longer be sustainable; it will require major structural realignment. In addition to a structural realignment to respond to budget realities, engineering education requires directional realignment to respond to the continuing exponential acceleration of scientific and engineering knowledge and increasing competitive pressures from the high-tech global environment in which our graduates will operate. Our existing business and educational models will be ineffective in meeting the needs of our faculty and students in the future; furthermore, our old approach cannot be sustained financially.

As you know, for years now, we have been aggressively pursuing changes in the way we teach our students so that they will be prepared to work and lead in a knowledge-based economy.

There have been and will be stimulus packages and other efforts made to boost our economy, but the roots of American success have always been innovation, education and determination.

You, our alumni, are great proof of that success and we will continue to supply the high-caliber graduates who can help conquer the challenges of these interesting times.

Paul S. Peercy, Dean

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