SEE’s leadership change and what this means for engineering at SFU

July 14, 2022

SFU’s School of Sustainable Energy Engineering is announcing a leadership change that signifies stability for the school, along with a brighter future for all engineering programs at the university.

SEE associate professor Kevin Oldknow is stepping down from his role as school director to take on the new role of senior advisor to the provost in the office of the vice-president, academic and provost (VPA), which will begin on August 15 and continue for two years. Oldknow’s last day as SEE director will be July 14, after which he will take a one-month administrative leave.

To ensure continuity of school matters, including the upcoming full accreditation visit by the Canadian Engineering Accreditation Board (CEAB) this year, the school has appointed SEE lecturer Mehran Ahmadi as acting director effective July 15. Ahmadi currently serves as the school’s associate director, as well as undergraduate curriculum chair. He was one of the first faculty members recruited in 2019 as the school was establishing, and has been overseeing undergraduate program affairs since then.

“Mehran has been an integral part of the school’s leadership team since its inception,” says Oldknow. “He has been deeply involved in the deployment and coordination of our undergraduate program and its teaching lab infrastructure, along with our academic policies and procedures.”

“Mehran’s remarkable combination of integrity and empathy has positioned him as a tremendously positive presence in the lives of our students, staff and faculty members. He is widely respected by the members of our school, with strong support and confidence in his leadership as we begin this next exciting chapter.”

Ahmadi’s priorities will include ensuring the school’s readiness for its upcoming accreditation review, growth of the school and maintaining its current culture. SEE is one of three engineering-focused schools in the Faculty of Applied Sciences (FAS), and CEAB accreditation is a requirement for programs to prepare graduates to become licensed with Canada’s engineering regulators. The official accreditation process for new engineering programs is initiated in conjunction with the program’s first graduating class, a milestone that SEE will be marking this fall, 2022.

“The school’s most urgent and time-pressing priority is to be ready for its accreditation review, which we are well prepared for,” says Ahmadi. “We have a focused and dedicated Undergraduate Program Accreditation Committee, and support from the FAS dean’s office laying the foundation to move this forward, putting us in an excellent position.”

Oldknow led the development of the SEE program and was appointed as the inaugural school director since its beginning. He, along with the leadership team that included Ahmadi, helped create Western Canada’s first interdisciplinary engineering program to train students on renewable energy and clean technologies. Under Oldknow’s leadership, the school grew to include a complement of sixteen faculty members. In a field that is predominantly male, the program also boasts more than 40% female enrollment.

“While Kevin has been a remarkable inaugural academic leader of SEE, his inclusive approach to leadership has both created considerable momentum for the school, and has facilitated the growth of academic leadership skills in faculty members of the school,” says Eugene Fiume, dean of the FAS.

“His contribution to SFU will now extend to the VPA portfolio, an appointment that is a milestone on its own as this is the first time in SFU’s history that the university will have a licensed engineer with P.Eng. status at the VPA office,” says Fiume.

While Oldknow’s departure as school director will be bittersweet for colleagues and students, he will remain a faculty member in SEE and continue his research and graduate student supervision.

“He is also leaving the director role with the school in excellent shape and in the very capable hands of Mehran, who has been with the program from the very beginning and understands the needs of the students, to continue the charge,” adds Fiume.

Ahmadi will serve as the acting director for SEE until the new school director is in place.

“Our long-term priority is to grow the school and maintain our current vibrant culture of good and long-standing dynamic relations between faculty, staff and students, which I believe is unique to SEE, and created and fostered under Kevin’s leadership,” says Ahmadi.

The school will establish a search committee to identify a new director who will continue to grow this culture and vision. The search process for the new director is scheduled to begin in September.