Inspiring the next generation

As the fall semester 2010 kicks off, the campus is buzzing not only with students but also with capital improvements at the heart of the Berkeley Engineering quadrant. These projects represent the continuation of our strategic plan to transform the educational experience for our 2,800-plus undergraduates.

We are aware of the current perception that four years at Berkeley Engineering can be like taking a drink from a fire hydrant. We are working to substantially enhance our undergraduate education by providing our students with more hands-on projects and professionalizing their experience by teaching them leadership skills and ethics as well as sharing a vision of the engineer’s key role in a networked, global society.

Recent engineering construction projects—Stanley Hall in 2007 and Sutardja Dai Hall in 2009—provided state-of-the-art facilities for our multidisciplinary research centers: the Banatao Institute@CITRIS Berkeley, Marvell Nanofabrication Lab and QB3. The newest renovation and expansion of the Naval Architecture Building into Richard C. Blum Hall is also nearing completion; it will house programs for students working on innovative technology solutions for California, the United States and developing economies around the world.

Starting this summer, we are launching the renewal and renovation of our student social and special project spaces. Thanks to generous support from the S.D. Bechtel Jr. Foundation, we are upgrading the Bechtel Engineering Center to enhance the quality of undergraduate student life. Our goal is to provide modern, flexible student team meeting places and a central hub to support and leverage their wide-ranging educational, research and leadership activities.

Specifically, we will replace a great deal of the bookshelf space in Kresge Engineering Library with flexible meeting and learning spaces to encourage spontaneous, round-the-clock group collaborations. We will renovate Sibley Auditorium and outfit it with improved technology for presentations, distance learning and webcasting. We will reconfigure Garbarini Lounge to accommodate tables for informal meetings and flat panel displays for student projects. The Engineering Student Council (formerly EJC)—which coordinates more than 25 student-run project teams and societies—will have permanent office space here. Building-wide improvements include Americans with Disabilities Act–compliant entrances and upgraded communications and safety systems.

As I wrote in last fall’s Forefront, we began this process last year with program changes, new staff hires and consolidation of Engineering Student Services in enhanced, student-focused Bechtel Center offices. With this integrated approach, by our planned completion date of 2014, these transformed spaces will help provide more leadership and developmental experiences for our talented undergraduates.

We believe that, as the nation’s no. 1 ranked public university we can provide a multicultural cohort of students with a supportive, world-class student experience, empowering Berkeley Engineering to graduate an even more exceptional, diverse community of engineering leaders.

I welcome your thoughts and ideas.

S. Shankar Sastry
Dean and Roy W. Carlson Professor of Engineering
Director, Blum Center for Developing Economies
Email Dean Sastry