Dean’s word: Future bound: Partners wanted

November 1, 2017
This article appeared in Berkeley Engineer magazine, Fall 2017

As we use this issue of Berkeley Engineer to benchmark what’s in store for the future here at the college, we’re also developing a playbook of what it will take to get there. Given our talented students and dedicated faculty, I’m confident in our plans. But I’m thinking a lot about what connects vision to reality.

Dean SastryPhoto by Noah BergerOne great advantage that we have in contributing our vision of the future is that we’re operating in an environment that continually strives for open collaboration and shares a mission of innovation at the service of society. We have a long history of forming partnerships — within the college and broader community, as well as with government and industry — that create high-impact technologies and advance meaningful solutions to the most challenging of problems.

By tradition, engineering and professional schools have been broadly connected to the outside world. But as we go forward, we also need to partner with parts of the university that traditionally have not relied on close relationships with industry or outside organizations. For example, in augmented reality/virtual reality (AR/VR), we’re currently developing a wonderful partnership with the faculty in Theater, Dance and Performance Studies; Art Practice; and the Center for New Media. They see that the future of dance, performance, music, sports — and indeed the future of how we teach, the future of education — is going to be transformed by AR/VR devices.

In talking to Shannon Jackson, Berkeley’s new Associate Vice Chancellor of Arts and Design, we’ve come to this conclusion: At Berkeley, we’ve been great at educating right brains and left brains separately. Why don’t we educate the whole? Berkeley students are superb, and we’d be selling them short if we didn’t make this our goal.

“Thank you for your critical role in all we continue to build together.”

It’s not enough anymore to design, work, ideate and create in silos of expertise or experience. Instead we need to think how to foster connections and build networks — and then share the uniqueness of the university environment. We’re seeing this happen in remarkable ways at spaces across campus (Jacobs Hall, Sutardja Dai Hall and Blum Hall for example), and these relationships will be more critical than ever as we seek to shape the future.

As you may know, I will be stepping down as dean and returning full-time to my faculty position at the end of this academic year. It has been my privilege and pleasure to serve as the dean at Berkeley Engineering during the past ten years. This has been a period of transformation, innovation and tremendous growth for the college, and I thank you for your invaluable partnership during my tenure and for your critical role in all we will continue to build together in Inventing the Future!

As always, I welcome your thoughts and ideas.

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