By Ariane Madden
Next week, the doors to Simon Fraser University’s newest Surrey campus building open to students as the institution launches a first-of-its-kind program set to play a role in British Columbia’s burgeoning cleantech industry.
SFU’s School of Sustainable Energy Engineering (SEE) blends a strong fundamental and interdisciplinary engineering education in energy systems with elements of public policy, economics, management and entrepreneurship to prepare students to help build a more sustainable future.
The school launches just as B.C.—and Canada’s—cleantech and clean-energy sectors are growing at a rapid pace and there is strong public concern over climate change. It will eventually have capacity for up to 320 undergraduate students and 120 graduate students.
“Students from SEE will graduate as globally minded professionals ready to provide technology-based solutions to the challenges we face from climate change,” says school director, Kevin Oldknow.
Students from both the undergraduate and graduate levels will be ready to work in high-demand industries such as renewable energy, sustainable manufacturing, clean transportation and sustainable food and water solutions.
In an effort to attract well-rounded future engineers, the faculty used a broad-based admissions approach that emphasizes extracurricular and community-focused activities in addition to strong academic performance. The goal is to develop technology innovators with the social and societal awareness that is required in an era of rapid technological and environmental change.
The school also shows promise for helping to close the gender gap in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) disciplines. More than 40 per cent of SEE’s first undergraduate cohort is female compared to 15–20 per cent of B.C.’s existing technology workforce.
For Oldknow, the high female enrolment in SEE represents a win for the discipline overall and is a milestone for the faculty as it continues efforts to increase diversity in STEM disciplines through various initiatives, including community outreach programs to remove barriers for female, Aboriginal, remote and at-risk youth.
“Doing our part to close the gender gap in engineering was a key objective when we developed SEE,” he says. “This is a promising start from which we will build as we work to ensure a welcoming and inclusive environment for all students in our programs.”
When classes begin this fall, SEE students will be the first to occupy a five storey, 15,000 square-metre building adjacent to SFU’s existing campus in Surrey’s Central City complex. The $126-million facility was funded with combined contributions of $90 million from the federal and provincial governments and has won several awards for its design and construction. It is also a LEED® Certification Candidate.
Welcoming the students will be a team of five faculty members with a wide array of industry, research and teaching experience. Their expertise will provide SEE students with a well-rounded, globally relevant education to prepare them to contribute to a sustainable future. More teaching and research faculty are expected to join SEE throughout the coming year.
The inaugural SEE faculty members are: