ramesh2011.jpgDear friends,

I am delighted to share with you our first issue of SPECTRA for 2011, highlighting the accomplishments of our students and faculty over the past six months. It has been a very productive period, with approximately $1.7 million in grants and contracts awarded to our faculty in support of research and education since March 2010. But in some ways it has almost evoked the words of Dickens: “It was the best of times, it was the ….”, as we prepare for yet another round of painful budget cuts resulting from the serious financial crisis in California.

As I write this message, I thought I would share some observations I made at a recent IEEE meeting as part of a keynote address titled “Perspectives on the Globalization of Engineering.” They seem especially relevant, given the challenges that confront us today. As I noted, regions and nations are now competing globally in a race for talent and capital, and the global economic landscape is changing. The “social” context of engineering practice is changing as well, and curricula are evolving to meet workforce needs. The only constant in our disciplines is change, and the pace of change has been pretty rapid when one considers the advances in fields such as computing, energy and health care, to name just a few. We are increasingly being called upon to solve global challenges in a wide range of fields, requiring innovation and collaboration across diverse teams spanning disciplines and cultures.

How do we prepare our students in such a rapidly changing environment? Fundamentally, we should strive to teach students how to think, but not what to think. We need to focus on engineering as a basic characteristic of human activity and emphasize the relationship of engineering to society. We need to emphasize the creative and dynamic nature of our disciplines and promote a better image of our profession. The challenge, as Will Rogers succinctly noted, is that “Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.” Here in the College of Engineering and Computer Science, we are definitely moving, and I invite you to join us on the ride as we tackle the exciting challenges ahead.