Dean's word: Bechtel made better

When Stephen D. Bechtel, Sr., was on campus in 1980 to dedicate the opening of the center that bears his name, engineering education had already begun to embrace interdisciplinary thinking—integrating social, ethical, economic and environmental considerations to translate emerging technologies into practice. Today, that thinking has come full circle as we incorporate an appreciation for the importance of design, hands-on experimentation and experiential learning into our pedagogy.

On March 11, Mr. Bechtel’s son, Stephen D. Bechtel, Jr., and granddaughter, Lauren Bechtel Dachs, joined us to mark the beginning of this new chapter in engineering education with the re-dedication of the Bechtel Engineering Center.

It feels more like a collaborative start-up environment than a musty old library.

The center, which serves as the hub of student leadership development and experiential design education in the college, has undergone extensive renovation in the last few years. It houses Engineering Student Services (ESS) and its numerous affiliated programs, the newest of which is the Center for Access to Engineering Excellence (CAEE).

CAEE aims to build an inclusive engineering community for all students by promoting excellence in engineering and encouraging a supportive environment for freshmen, women, first-generation and underrepresented students, in particular. The center provides peer-to-peer mentoring as well as advising by two staff members. More than 550 students walked through its doors in the first month.

Cutting the ribbon at the re-dedication of the Bechtel Engineering CenterCutting the ribbon at the re-dedication of the Bechtel Engineering Center were (left to right) Dean Shankar Sastry, ASUC President Connor Landgraf (B.S.’13 BioE), Chancellor Robert Birgeneau, Oski, S.D. Bechtel, Jr., Foundation President Lauren Bechtel Dachs, Bechtel Group Chairman (ret.) and Director Stephen D. Bechtel, Jr., and Executive Associate Dean Fiona Doyle. (Photo by Matt Beardsley)Downstairs, the Kresge Engineering Library has been transformed into a learning center where students can meet to discuss, design and develop team projects in soundproof study rooms equipped with white boards and flat projection screens. According to one appreciative student, “It feels more like a collaborative start-up environment than a musty old library.” Since the renovation, library use has increased 65 percent.

Two former deans joined me at the re-dedication—Ernest Kuh and David Hodges—along with Chancellor Robert Birgeneau. Earlier this year, he announced he would be stepping down as Berkeley’s chancellor after eight years and returning to faculty positions in materials science and engineering and physics. The day became a way to express thanks for two of the college’s best partners: the Bechtel family and Bob Birgeneau.

We also warmly welcome the arrival of Nicholas Dirks as Berkeley’s new chancellor this summer (see page 3). He has already expressed his commitment to building upon Berkeley’s longstanding preeminence in engineering and science, and we look forward to working closely with him.

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


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