Dean’s word: Leading our students toward a new future of work

June 1, 2018
This article appeared in Berkeley Engineer magazine, Spring 2018

For the past decade, I have had the great privilege of serving as dean for one of the top engineering colleges in the nation. During this time, I have had a ringside seat to the tremendous growth at Berkeley Engineering during a transformative time in our society.

“As many traditional jobs are transformed by automation, we need to prepare our students for the jobs of the future.”

The world looks markedly different now than it did when I first assumed the deanship in 2007. The time is coming when we may be driving along the road and turn to see that the vehicle next to us doesn’t have a human being behind the wheel. In these not-too-distant scenarios, humans will be living and working closely with robots.

Automation and artificial intelligence are revolutionizing nearly every sector of our society and altering the landscape of our future workforce.

The future of work was on my mind as I looked out at our graduating engineering students at commencement a few weeks ago. As many traditional jobs are transformed by automation, we in academia need to prepare our students for the jobs of the future.

We have made huge strides toward this goal by bringing in a blend of technology, entrepreneurship and design into our instruction, and by offering a professional master’s of engineering degree as well as the Management, Entrepreneurship, & Technology dual degree program with the Haas School of Business.

Gary Ma and Dean Sastry at commencementDean Shankar Sastry with Gary May (M.S.’88, Ph.D.’91 EECS), UC Davis chancellor and featured speaker at Berkeley Engineering’s graduate student commencement. (Photo by Noah Berger)Our faculty members are already collaborating with researchers and scholars from business, law and other disciplines to ensure that our students not only survive in these changing times, but thrive.

Going forward, we will need to expand the college’s offerings in career enhancement for those already in the workforce, with pedagogy combining new technology innovation with design and entrepreneurship. A successful exemplar that we could build on is our popular four-month-long Engineering Leadership Professional Program.

This year, Berkeley Engineering is celebrating 150 years of successfully sending our best and brightest graduates out into the world. I am excited for the next 150 years of innovation and entrepreneurship, and I am eager to explore new challenges as I return full-time to teaching and research as an engineering faculty member and as director of the Blum Center for Developing Economies.

I end with a heartfelt thank you to the entire Berkeley Engineering community for making my time as dean so rewarding and inspiring. It has been a true honor.

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