A look back and into the future of Engineering 

By Laurie Zack

In a presentation to the Board of Governors on Feb. 29, Dean Nabil Esmail said he came to Concordia 11 years ago looking for a new professional challenge. “I got more than I bargained for. However, I have had a great deal of satisfaction. It was fun!”

Esmail recalled that the Faculty of Engineering and Computer Science was demoralized and indebted when he arrived in 1997. Facilities were scattered among 17 locations and laboratories were located in the basements of single-dwelling annexes and office rooms.

Today, the EV Building houses the largest graduate engineering programs in Canada, with 1,250 graduate students and 300 professors and staff engaged in creative research every day.

“Of the 95 professors in 1997, 57 are still among us. One hundred and five have been hired over the last few years. The student body almost doubled since then. It has gone up 70 per cent among undergraduates, and tripled in graduate students. The number of PhD students tripled to an impressive 513, the largest group of engineering PhD students in Canada.”

Quality has not been sacrificed for accessibility, he added. Each year, 4.5 to 5 per cent of all undergraduate students are on the Dean’s List, with a grade point average of 3.5 or higher.

Some key areas of excellence include the undergraduate aerospace engineering program, considered one of the best in Canada. Quite a few future leaders of the Canadian aerospace industry will likely be Concordia alumni. ENCS is working with software entertainment partners in an effort to establish a similar foothold in that industry.

The Faculty was the first in Quebec to introduce a program in software engineering, and recently introduced the first North American graduate program in information security; a program that has already attracted significant attention from Cisco, Bell Canada, the Defense Department, the FBI and other organizations. ENCS also recently introduced the first Canadian graduate program in quality engineering, a strategic area of national interest.

The Faculty is in sound financial shape, which Esmail credited to the capacity of faculty members to generate revenue.

“The professorate raised their research revenues from industrial sources and government agencies from $5 million annually to $12 million,” he told Board members. “Each professor generates more than double his or her own salaries and benefits. Their hard work contributed $18 million towards the re-equipping of all undergraduate engineering laboratories between 2001 and 2004.”

Esmail added that motivated professors voluntarily increased their working loads by supervising more graduate students.

He said the Faculty must face the outsourcing of engineering jobs to other countries, the competition for new students locally and globally, and the need for more research funding and interdisciplinary activities. ENCS can meet these challenges by aligning academic and managerial cultures with faculty goals and identifying the administrative tools to reach them.


Concordia University