Report on the Review of the Department of Civil Engineering
The Department of Civil Engineering enjoys a reputation for offering a high quality undergraduate program. While the graduate and research programs in the Department do not enjoy the benefit of a similar reputation, they are nevertheless viewed as being of a good standard overall. The Review Team identified a need to focus research and graduate studies into a smaller number of clearly defined areas. Indeed, taking advantage of its recent and projected retirements, the Department has started to address this issue. The IARC is encouraged that the process of renewal is underway and urges the Department of Civil Engineering to continue on its course of focused action, while exploiting the favourable conditions in the form of renewed energy and rejuvenation that are now in evidence in the unit.
The External Consultants and the Review Team emphasize that the Department of Civil Engineering offers an outstanding undergraduate program. It is recognized as one of the best in the country and excellent by international standards. The Review Team recommends that "the delivery of this program should continue to be one of the core missions of the Department."
On the research and graduate studies side, the Department appeared to the reviewers to lack an obvious focus. Although the Department engaged in a substantial strategic planning process in 1998, the exercise had not resulted in creating a strong sense of direction and momentum in the unit that was apparent at the time of the review. It is now evident, particularly in recent hiring, that the move toward more focused areas of research as mapped out in the Strategic Plan, is being implemented. Furthermore, there are several faculty retirements expected in the near future. The Department is encouraged to continue on its course to define and focus research areas, and at the same time improve the currently skewed age and gender distribution of the faculty complement.
Given the expectation of the future direction of the discipline, as described by the External Consultants, it would appear that strengthening interaction and linkages with other units will be important to the creation of sound, relevant and focused research areas for this unit. The IARC notes that the Department has already established some valuable cooperative links, both within and external to Queen's.
The reviewers report that there are concerns regarding space and related to this, an expressed need to enhance the sense of community among the students, faculty and staff of the Department. This issue is not unique to this unit. The IARC notes that the Vice-Principal (Operations and Finance) has taken steps to address this and other university-wide space issues through the establishment of a committee that will examine a number of topics including how to find a balance between the need for an efficient allocation of teaching space and the need of individual units to maintain a sense of community.
The Department of Civil Engineering appears to recognize the challenges it is facing and there is already evidence of renewed energy in the unit. It remains for it to take further actions to implement a strategic vision that is shared by all of its members, and to harness the energy of its new faculty appointments so that it can move forward in a focused way.
Follow-up on these recommendations and issues will take place in the annual staffing and budget strategy meetings between the Dean of the Faculty of Applied Science and the Vice-Principal (Academic).