All Ways Forward: Our college continues to grow and improve

Over the course of the past couple of years, I’ve had the honor of attending numerous events we’ve hosted for engineering alumni around the country. And while such activities are part of my job as your dean, they are an aspect of my work that I enjoy immensely. To say our alumni maintain a fondness for their alma mater is an understatement. They are exceptionally passionate about UW-Madison, and highly grateful for the education and experiences they had as engineering students here.

Those experiences are due in no small part to the passion and dedication you bring to your work in the College of Engineering every day. Our students recognize that—and as alumni, they feel a strong connection to the college.

They, in turn, express their strong support for our college, and often ask what they can do to help ensure our current and future students receive a high-quality engineering education. They are excited for the opportunity to give back. If you have the opportunity to visit with former students, please thank them for their support—financial or otherwise—and tell them what it means to you, to our students, to your colleagues, and to our college.

On Oct. 15, the university officially kicked off a five-year, comprehensive fund-raising campaign, All Ways Forward. Here in the college, our goals include raising funds in support of our faculty and staff, research and innovation, our students, and the experiences we provide our students.

While gifts of any amount make a difference, in September I had the privilege of announcing a major gift to the college. The Grainger Foundation of Lake Forest, Illinois, has committed $22 million to establish the Grainger Fund for Undergraduate Education. We made this announcement during a brief, festive event attended by approximately 400 engineering faculty, staff and students on Engineering Mall. This commitment will fund initiatives that will benefit all engineering undergraduates—and you can learn more about our plans here.

That same day, I also delivered my fall “state of the college” message to a large group of faculty and staff. I’m excited to tell you we have nearly 1,200 entering undergraduates and more than 5,000 undergraduates total. In the most recent U.S. News and World Report rankings, nearly all of our undergraduate program rankings rose, and that certainly is indicative of the quality of the education we are providing our students.

On the research front, our Research Innovation Committee will release a call for proposals later this fall, and this call will solicit proposals that more closely align with campus goals. Our Grainger Institute for Engineering also is moving forward. We hired Dan Thoma to be the institute director, and Dan began his position in June. We also have hired Sangkee Min in mechanical engineering, Xin Wang in industrial and systems engineering, and Robert Farrell in electrical and computer engineering, and currently are seeking additional faculty for the institute.

We are making a number of changes in our facilities. In the short term, we are renovating 1410 Engineering Drive to house several units, including Engineering Career Services and Engineering Student Development, Student Services Center One, the Diversity Affairs Office, and Engineering External Relations. We are assigning laboratory space in the Engineering Centers Building to current and new faculty, and the Grainger Institute for Engineering now is located in offices on the mezzanine level of ECB. Our Engineering Hall atrium project is complete, as is the second phase of classroom renovations, bringing that total up to 15. We also plan to remodel the Engineering Eatery and improve the entrance areas to the building. In Wendt Commons, our plans include creating the Engineering Design Innovation Laboratory on the second floors and large-capacity, flexible classrooms on the third floor.

Finally, UW-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank recently gave a “state of the university” talk to the Faculty Senate. This talk included an overview of our university budget, remarks about tenure and shared governance, emphasis on the need to create a stable financial base for our university, and many suggestions for ways to create a positive conversation around what’s happening at UW-Madison. I encourage you to read the transcript of her remarks—and when people ask, “What’s happening at UW-Madison,” you can share news of a university (and a College of Engineering) that remains one of the world’s greatest institutions of higher education.

Dean Ian Robertson