Santa Clara University

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A Barrage of Good News

From the Dean's Desk by Dean Daniel Pitt

The school year at Santa Clara sure started off with a bang last month. (We are on the quarter system so classes began September 19.) It’s always nice to start the year off with some good news but getting an onslaught of it is quite a special experience.

First, US News and World Report published its 2006 edition of America's Best Colleges, ranking SCU’s undergraduate engineering program number 14 in the nation. For years US News placed us in what we felt was the incorrect category, namely those schools whose focus is Ph.D. research, rather than with those whose emphasis is undergraduate (and master’s) education. Being an engineer, I decided to fix this problem because it did a disservice to students, the School, and the magazine. I found that it was simply a matter of convincing US News and World Report and the American Society for Engineering Education to adopt the Carnegie Classifications for undergraduate engineering programs; both organizations contributed very constructively to the solution and it was a pleasure to work with them. In a mere two years we accomplished this change, though we did not know where we would come out. We are of course thrilled to be ranked as one of the top undergraduate engineering programs in the country. We have always strived to be one and thought we were but it sure is nice to have that determination made by others. For those of you who are alumni, feel free to put this on your resume; the value of your diploma just went up.

Second, the School received a gift of $1 million for undergraduate research in engineering from Jack and Carmen Kuehler. Jack received his B.S. and M.S. degrees in engineering from Santa Clara and is currently a member of the university's board of trustees. He and I both started our careers with IBM and were both hired into the company by the same person, Norm Vogel, SCU engineering class of 1948. Jack went on to become President of IBM; I did not reach quite that level. The gift was inspired by two assistant professors, Silvia Figueira and JoAnne Holliday, whom Jack and Carmen met at a donor's dinner. Drs. Figueira and Holliday have run a summer research program for undergraduates for several years now, and the students' experiences have dramatically stimulated their professional ambition so that a number of them have gone on to top-quality Ph.D. programs. Jack came away from the dinner so inspired that he wanted to help make the program permanent, which his gift does. Funds will be granted to faculty, who will employ students who can help them with their research. What is so exciting about research for undergraduates is that it enables them to participate in the creation of knowledge. Close relationships with faculty are, of course, one of our specialties here at Santa Clara.

Third, two of our faculty received prestigious awards at this year's Faculty Recognition Dinner. Professor Tim Healy (Electrical Engineering) was named Faculty Senate Professor for the year. Dr. Healy's many accomplishments over decades of service were cited in his winning this award. Next year he will deliver the after-dinner address at the Faculty Recognition Dinner. Professor Nam Ling (Computer Engineering) received a President's Special Recognition Award. Dr. Ling was cited for his passionate teaching of undergraduate and graduate students, his curricular innovations including a course in building global teams, and his many publications and invited talks around the world on the subject of video coding and compression, including contributions to the current standards for streaming video. The texts from both award announcements will appear soon on www.scu.edu/facultydevelopment/awards/index.cfm. Click on the award and then click on the name of the most recent winner to read the inspiring texts.

Lastly, we received the final findings from last fall’s accreditation visit by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET), a visit I wrote about last winter. Once again, our four undergraduate programs are accredited, as they have been since accreditation began. But the process was a very gratifying one and one that we received a lot of benefit from. By opening ourselves up to external scrutiny and entering the process with an eagerness to improve in any way we can, we enjoyed a highly constructive dialogue whose specific (though confidential) outcomes made the immense effort we put into the review worthwhile. Some of our new plans you will be hearing about in future newsletters.