State of the College Celebrates a Year of Progress

Drexel Engineering Dean Sharon L. Walker, PhD, presented her annual State of the College address on Wednesday, recapping a year of progress in difficult conditions.

View of Market Street and Bossone Research Center at night

The address focused on progress made in the college’s strategic plan, announced at the 2020 State of the College, along with highlights of faculty research, administrative achievements and student engagement.

“There’s so much that happens in any given year – let alone one that turns out to be unexpectedly completely virtual,” Walker said. “What we were able to accomplish provides proof points of how we, our students and our graduates, engineer change.”

The year was marked by collaboration across the college, both internally and with new external partners. Walker noted the recent launch of the Drexel Engineering Alumni Industry Board, a new initiative to expand collaborative, two-way relationships with for-profit, non-profit and community organizations, government agencies, and other institutions, with the goal of informing and supporting all aspects of our research, program, curriculum and practice.

She also highlighted the creation of the Dean’s Student Leadership Council, which connects graduate and undergraduate student leaders with college leaders and support staff.  Other internal accomplishments included the work of the Drexel Staff Assembly-Engineering (DSA-E) on reimagining work and faculty and staff involvement in the Drexel 2030 Strategic Plan implementation teams.

“We have a healthy amount of work to continue, but this is precisely the type of shared governance, shared ownership of our strategic plan, and shared progress toward our goals that is worth acknowledging,” Walker said, also crediting the work of a committee formed to reimagine graduate education.

Walker noted pride in the scholarly achievments of the College of Engineering faculty, noting that research projects led by college personnel had yielded $16 million in grants. Among the projects highlighted were:

  • Masoud Soroush, PhD’s Future Manufacturing Research Grant-supported research that develops new knowledge related to on-demand, flexible manufacturing of high-quality two-dimensional nanomaterials, such as MXenes.
  • Christopher Li, PhD, and Vibha Kalra, PhD’s NSF-funded project to acquire an advanced scanning electron microscope for advanced imaging and analysis.
  • James Tangorra, PhD’s research on bio-inspired design of aquatic robotics, supported by the the Office of Naval Research.
  • Steven Weber, PhD and David Han, PhD’s award from the Federal Aviation Administration for a project to explore automation failures that provide insights relevant to the design of automation to support Unpiloted Aerial Systems operations.
  • Megan Creighton, PhD, who within six months of joining Drexel, received an NSF award for researching the first Additive Manufacturing technique for recyclable thermoplastic materials.
  • Matthew Stamm, PhD, who was recognized as a member of Popular Science's Brilliant 10 for his research and developed approached to detect multimedia forgeries.

“I am grateful for everyone’s persistence over the last year, who continued in a very rough time to find the bandwidth to write proposals,” Walker shared. She also took time during the address to welcome new faculty to the College and congratulated a new cohort of Dean’s Fellows.

The address also announced the approval of 15 new tenure-track and 8 non-tenure-track faculty hires in strategic areas over the next several years. The multi-year process will involve faculty across the College of Engineering as well as other schools and colleges throughout Drexel University and aim to enhance the research impact of the college; address enrollment growth and strategic teaching needs; advance the college’s commitment to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion; and build on our widely-respected strengths in these rapidly evolving fields.

Walker celebrated the work of the faculty and staff to ensure continuity of learning during the virtual year, noting especially the work that had been done to support first year students with learning kits and online tutoring.

In closing, Walker remarked on positive enrollment trends. She noted that the incoming class marked the highest percentage of women and underrepresented minority students —26% and 19%, respectively — in the college’s history. The class also features greater representation by Black and Latinx students — 11.1% and 8.5% — than any time in the college’s history. The college also boasted improvements in enrollment statistics that measure how many accepted students choose to enroll.

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