Messages from the Department Head

Summer 2024 - Strengthening our industry ties

Dear Alumni and Friends of CEE,

CEE Department Head <a href="/directory/profile/barros">Ana Barros</a>
Ana Barros

As I write this, the weather has warmed up, leaves are developing on the trees all over campus, and we are finishing another successful academic year. The department is stronger than ever, and this year will bring some exciting new developments.

Our new undergraduate program has launched for the Bachelor of Science Degree in Environmental Engineering. Current students have been able to apply to transfer into the program since last year, and this fall we will welcome our inaugural class of first-year students. We were delighted with the large number of applications and the quality of the students interested in this track.

For the second year in a row, our CEE Alumni Association Board of Directors is helping us encourage admitted students to accept their offers of admission by making personal phone calls, sharing information about the department and answering any questions applicants might have. A big thank you to the Board for this effort; we are confident it will make a difference. This fall’s incoming class promises to be a diverse group of top-tier individuals, and we cannot wait to meet them!

As you may have heard, we have created a new Industry Partners Program (IPP) to strengthen our ties to industry. We believe this program will benefit both our students and the participating firms. Companies are invited to sponsor the department at whatever level they are able, enjoying benefits including increased access to students, staff and faculty; increased visibility on campus; complimentary space at the CEE Career Fair; facilitated access to student groups and faculty; branding presence on our marketing platforms; assistance organizing campus and company visits; and email communication opportunities.

For companies, IPP sponsorship provides very distinct advantages. For example, companies who are building or expanding their talent pools might benefit from the increased recruiting opportunities that come with industry sponsorship. For the department, the benefits of this program will be critical to maintaining our excellence. Presently, corporate gifts come in the form of conference fees, research funding, facilities support, specific programs, and scholarship and fellowship gifts. We deeply appreciate this targeted funding. In addition, however, we have an increasing need for unrestricted funds to strengthen student classroom and laboratory experiences, provide training and professional development, and support student organizations. We are particularly excited about developing collaborations whereby our students can work with faculty and industry mentors via independent study and internships toward developing specialized competencies needed to meet emerging technical needs. We launched a Cornerstone sponsorship program this fall to enhance our ability to bring technology innovations to the classroom in our first-year, project-based course that is our students’ introduction to engineering thinking. We look forward to collaborating with our alumni, the CEE Alumni Association Board, and industry partners in further refining and strengthening these initiatives. Many of our peer institutions already have robust industry partners programs, making our initiative even more critical to maintaining our leadership position in civil and environmental engineering education. For more information about the IPP, please visit the CEE website.

Another new initiative is the re-establishment of CEE’s External Advisory Board (EAB). In the short term, the EAB will help us meet the requirements of the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET). Additionally, we will look to the EAB to help us anticipate and plan for changes in the civil and environmental engineering enterprises in the next 10 years: how we can best prepare our students as we approach the mid-century; how to harness AI and high-performance computing capabilities in the context of civil and environmental engineering; how to manage and mitigate nonstationary climate risk through resilient infrastructure; how to integrate across engineering disciplines; and much more. For civil and environmental engineers, considerations around these topics come with challenges; civil and environmental engineering is tightly linked to the regulatory environment, policy, economics, land-use planning and evolving societal needs. We are looking to our new External Advisory Board to provide critical guidance and inspiration for this important work.

Even as one school year ends, we in the department are always planning for the next one, and the ones beyond that. We are privileged to attract outstanding students to CEE. We must keep our eyes on the future –growing, evolving and anticipating the knowledge and experience our students will need as they graduate and become our future practitioners and industry leaders. I know we can continue to count on you, our alumni and industry supporters, to help us do just that.

Go Illini! 

-Ana P. Barros
Donald Biggar Willett Chair of Engineering
Department Head, Civil and Environmental Engineering