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Message from the Dean

December 8th, 2008

I just returned from the sunny coast of California on Friday evening, welcomed today by the majesty of a ground covered in snow here in Rochester. During my trip to California, I met with numerous alums of our University, most of whom are graduates of SEAS, actively contributing to society in professions ranging from venture capitalists to corporate leaders. As always, I am impressed by the talent of our students, past and present, as well as their appreciation for the quality of education that they received here at the U of R. Some have gone on to receive law degrees, or MBAs, but in every case, they conveyed the relative ease with which they were able to apply their analytical thinking skills in their further education and profession. A degree in engineering is truly a degree that serves all professions and a lifetime of learning!

Having returned to a calendar full of holiday events, I am reminded that the holiday season is in full swing, but still — it’s not too early to talk about the fast-approaching spring semester. And I am happy to say that, as usual, SEAS students will have a whole host of course options from which to choose as they plan the second half of this academic year, including two brand-new ones announced recently.

Building Engineering and Technology in Antiquity will cover the challenges that come with the design, construction, maintenance, and collapse of major buildings and other structures, from ancient to pre-industrial times. Not only does this course sound downright fascinating — it will draw case studies of relevant monuments from Classical Greece and Rome, and the Middle Ages — it, too, will afford our students here at SEAS an opportunity to meet and collaborate with humanities and social-sciences majors who surely also will be drawn to the subject matter.

The second is Technical Entrepreneurship, which will be taught by Don Golini, president of QED Technologies, Inc., a 12-year-old optics-polishing company based here in Rochester. Students will learn how to analyze the viability of a new business concept, and develop a business plan. Given the obvious ingenuity and self-discipline of our students, it seems smart to stoke the entrepreneurial fire I’m certain burns in many of them.

And while I’m on the topic of exceptional students, I’d like to congratulate SEAS sophomore Benjamin Yezer, who was recently named a 2008 Iota Book Award recipient. Benjamin is one of just 18 sophomores — out of 1,100 — being recognized for their scholarly achievement, demonstration of humanistic values, involvement in co-curricular activities, and leadership potential, during their first year at the University. Benjamin was chosen by Phi Beta Kappa’s Iota Chapter, which is the University’s oldest honor society, for his outstanding academic record and the glowing nomination letters written on his behalf by professors, administrators, and staff. Benjamin and his fellow honorees, including SEAS’ Greg Bentsen, who I mentioned in a previous e-memo, were recognized during a formal ceremony last week. Congratulations!

You all can probably tell by now how important I think it is for everyone in the SEAS community to feel connected, not only to the school and University, but also to each other. These relationships foster scholarship and opportunity — plus, they make class and work more fruitful and fun. Of course, in this age of the online network, one need not always hold a face-to-face meeting in order to build such a relationship. I encourage you to check out and perhaps even become a “fan” of the SEAS Facebook page, which is proving to be a great place for finding and sharing the sort of information we all care about. You can find it by searching “UR School of Engineering and Applied Sciences” using the “Groups” prompt.

I’ll end this week’s post with a nice treat: a chance to buy an American Society of Mechanical Engineers Pumpkin Launch commemorative T-shirt! We had such fun that Halloween afternoon, watching as competitors propelled their pumpkins into mid-air in the name of science and engineering knowledge. Why not toast it with a new T-shirt? Proceeds benefit ASME; they are available for $10 apiece in the Mechanical Engineering office, or Hopeman 233. I, for one, am hard pressed to come up with a more appropriate holiday gift for the SEAS supporter (or gourd guru) in your life!

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