Dean James H. Aylor
By Cathy Eberly
QPresident John T. Casteen III has said that strengthening the University’s programs in science and engineering will be critically important over the next 10 years. What will this mean for the engineering school?
QWhat will it take for the engineering school to become a national leader?
AIt will take substantial additional resources, of course. The University is doing what it can by directing half of the revenues it receives from tuition increases to faculty salaries. This will provide us with more funds to attract additional teachers and researchers and to retain the talented scholars who are already members of our faculty. The University is also working to help us locate new funding sources. Our goal is to attract approximately $100 million in external research funding and we’re already halfway there.
QHow will the engineering school change over the next decade?
AIn order to see where we’re going, we have to understand where we’ve been. As a state institution, we have a historical emphasis in undergraduate classroom education and we are very strong in this area. For the past 20 years, we have also been working hard to increase our research and graduate education, and—more recently—we have been pushing to get our undergraduates involved in research. Ten years from now, we will be widely recognized for our undergraduate and graduate education and for our research programs. Not only does research help to attract more highly talented faculty and make life better for those who are already building careers here, but it also enables us to recruit better-qualified students at all levels.
QWill the engineering school grow?
AWe are planning for modest growth. We expect to increase our tenure-track faculty from 150 to 175 and our undergraduate students from 2,000 to 2,200. We need to increase the size of the faculty concomitantly to preserve, as much as possible, our 14:1 undergraduate student to faculty ratio. But even modest growth will require major changes to our facilities. In addition to the information technology engineering building currently on the drawing board, I expect we will be planning another facility behind Thornton Hall—probably devoted to energy, the environment or some other aspect of the macro-engineering business.
QThe line between traditional engineering disciplines has begun to blur in recent years as scholars and researchers from departments within the school and across the University find new opportunities to work together. What types of collaborations do you foresee?
AHere at U.Va., our moderate size and supportive atmosphere make unique collaborations possible. Because we are not a massive institution focused exclusively on technology, pan-University collaborations are not only helpful but necessary. We’ve been able to build a strong biomedical engineering program, in part because our teaching hospital is located on-site and hasn’t been privatized. As demand grows for new medical technologies, I imagine that this successful collaboration will continue to flourish.
QTomorrow’s engineering graduates will work in a much more global environment. How is the engineering school preparing students for the challenges they will face?
AOur undergraduates should be able to gain international experience while they are enrolled at the engineering school. We can help them arrange internships with international universities, co-ops and other types of study-abroad opportunities—provided we can navigate the scheduling problems. It is my hope that, by arranging internships with multinational corporations as well as with foreign universities, we can add value to our engineering degree.
QYou’ve been traveling around the country in recent months meeting with groups of alumni. What have you learned?
ANo matter what careers alumni have chosen, they are grateful for the education they received in the engineering school. They appreciate its structure, particularly in the first year, but they also find benefit in the fact that it is not all technical in nature, that it offers a well-rounded experience. We continue to attract outstanding students who are looking for a quality education, and we offer them exactly what they came for. V
[This interview first appeared in the spring 2006 issue of the University of Virginia Engineering magazine. It has been reprinted in InsideUVA courtesy of the School of Engineering and Applied Science.]
2006 by the Rector and Visitors