When I was asked to succeed Lisa Alvarez-Cohen as chair of this department, I immediately realized the challenge of this assignment.
For the past several decades, our peers have consistently ranked us among the top two CEE departments in the US at the undergraduate and graduate levels, and our PhD program tops the 2010 National Research Council ranking.
How does a chair foster continued excellence in the face of declining state support for the UC system and the associated budget cuts that the university is facing?
While the task is daunting, it is also exciting. This department is home to smart students, dedicated faculty, and creative staff. All of us work tirelessly to fulfill the mission of educating civil and environmental engineers to be the societal-scale engineers they have been throughout their proud history.
A central tenet of CEE at Berkeley is that we never rest on our laurels. Quite the opposite. Our excellence is largely the result of our ability to redefine ourselves, and in the process, the field of civil and environmental engineering.
I joined CEE in the mid-1990s as it underwent one of many re-orientations. I have witnessed the increasing importance of environmental and sustainability concerns in the education of our students. I’ve seen the growing role of multi-disciplinary research among our faculty and graduate students. And I’ve watched CEE establish a new cross-cutting program in Civil Systems that recognizes the importance of sensing, communication and control tools to manage natural and human-made systems.
But how do we expand to address new societal needs without sacrificing the core domains that define our profession?
To address this challenge, we embarked on a strategic plan to re-affirm our mission and outline our vision. We defined three broad areas in which future faculty searches would be conducted:
- Smart Cities
- Resilient Systems
- Engineering for Sustainability
All three areas encompass a range of analytical, quantitative and computational tools, but remain explicitly connected to the domains of civil and environmental engineering.
Through this approach, we continue to recruit some of the most promising scholars. I invite you to read A 3D view inside environmental flows, A new loo, and Rerouting behavior in this issue.
As we seed new initiatives, we take the time to celebrate some individuals this department has educated over its history.
Last year, our Advisory Council, with the support of the faculty, established an Academy of Distinguished Alumni. Twenty-six individuals were inducted into the Academy at a sold-out banquet on November 8. We were touched by the many enthusiastic and generous sponsors who came forward to support both the banquet and the launch of the Academy. Many of these sponsors had had their careers shaped by one or more individuals being honored.
I know that I speak for everyone in CEE in thanking all of these sponsors for their support of an Academy that will shine a light on the department as a whole, and the accomplishments of many alumni.
We invite you to visit us. The Berkeley CEE community strives, as we have throughout our history, to make the world a better place. Join us!