The College of Engineering held its inaugural State of the College event this week, offering a perspective on achievements over the past year and a forward-looking vision for the future to more than 100 community members, including Drexel University Board of Trustee members, members of the college’s Executive Advisory Council, deans from several Drexel colleges, and college alumni, faculty, and staff.
Dean Sharon L. Walker presented an hour-long address highlighting events and plans for the college, emphasizing hope for the future and a commitment to realizing advancements across curricular reform, diversity and inclusion, recruitment, and community engagement.
Noting that she has been at the helm of the college for 415 days, Walker described in particular the strategic planning process initiated at the beginning of 2019 that allowed her to quickly seize on a series of guiding principles: preserving and improving the student experience; prioritizing the college’s research mission; maintaining a safe learning environment; maintaining the college’s position in the national landscape of engineering programs; and advancing the college strategic plan.
“The college is at an inflection point,” said Walker. “We must balance past and current successes with the challenges that have stymied us in recent years, so that we can build a leading, global 21st century engineering program. We still have room to grow in establishing a sense of narrative, identity, and space for our college.
“It is not only my hope but my expectation that while we celebrate our achievements, we also look internally, examine our processes and practices, and question where and whether we are doing our best,” she added. “We must take intentional steps to move the college into the future.”
Among the achievements underscored were the college’s role in university-level achievements, like Drexel’s R1 research status—which places the university among the top tier nationally of research institutions—for which the college is the second-highest research contributor; and the 100th anniversary of cooperative education, which began with 152 engineering students in 1919. Highlights specific to engineering included membership in the exclusive Kern Family Foundation’s Kern Entrepreneurial Engineering Network (KEEN); the college’s unprecedented six GAANN grants over the past year in support of graduate education; earning bronze status from the American Society for Engineering Education for efforts related to diversity and inclusion; and the Graduate Program’s placement among the country’s top 75 as ranked by the US News & World Report, announced earlier this year.
Walker also announced two new social media accounts, including a LinkedIn page and a recharged Instagram account through which community members can follow college news and developments.
Walker also recalled her experiences getting to know faculty, staff, students and activities throughout the college, describing points of pride in each of the academic departments. Among them: the Department of Construction, Engineering Management, and Systems Engineering’s production of three teaching videos—ultimately awarded a silver Telly Award for general documentary—on the remodeling of the Academy of Music, filmed in partnership with construction firms and enlarging the university-community relationship; the ability of Engineering Technology to create pathways for those with non-traditional backgrounds to college classrooms; the creative ingenuity of students in the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Mechanics as they foster relationships with the Drexel Academy of Natural Sciences and others; the Department of Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering’s success in drawing “exceptional and diverse” talent; the “strong and positive culture” in place among those in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering coupled with its impressive research output; the curricular reform undertaken by the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering; and the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, which has the distinction of bringing home the highest amount in research dollars this year among all college departments.
The address concluded with the introduction of eight new faculty members hired under Walker’s leadership, and referenced the retirement of four faculty members after long and distinguished service to the college. A reception followed in Bossone, where faculty and staff had the opportunity to reconnect with alumni, and students from the Drexel Formula SAE team showed off their latest racecar.