Schulich School gets funding for new chair

By Medha Subramani

The University of Calgary’s Schulich School of Engineering received six million dollars this month to foster an innovative learning intiative.

The University matched a $3 million donation from the Li Ka Shing Foundation’s to create an endowed chair that would oversee the development and implementation of applied educational techniques.

“Engineering students, like all university students, require unique learning experiences that offer an educational experience beyond the traditional classroom,” said U of C president Dr. Harvey Weingarten. “This chair will explore innovation in education, which will benefit engineering students at the University of Calgary, and ultimately a much broader audience when these students take their skills and knowledge into the workplace.”

The Schulich School of Engineering is one of the most competitive engineering schools within Canada, with 35 per cent increase in undergraduate, and 70 per cent increase in graduate enrolments over the past five years.

“To get a gift of this magnitude is significant,” said engineering dean Dr. Elizabeth Cannon. “It is testament to our high quality.”

Cannon and Weingarten both stressed the importance of a chair in providing support and funding to pursue work in a specific direction, although Cannon noted the chair would not be a standard research chair, due to the additional aspect of innovation.

“[The funding] will help to recruit a top person for the position,” said Cannon. “The chair will have a clear mandate of what the objectives are in the tenure of appointment and will pilot different programs and build new practices into our curriculum.”

The U of C anticipates the position will encourage spin-offs to other areas of the university, because development, analysis and implementation of engaging academic techniques are transferable between faculties.

“It will influence the teaching of every undergraduate student in the Schulich School. However, the research on pedagogical techniques extends beyond Schulich School,” said Weingarten.

Students Union president Julie Bogle stressed the importance of funding to improving the quality of the university’s academic programs, which in turn would increase enrolment.

“Its not uncommon for donations to be tied to a specific academic initiative,” she said. “Any kind of funding is a positive step in the right direction.”

Li is also the founder of Shantou University in China and Cannon said she hopes the recent donation will provide collaboration opportunities between the two schools.

“The gift will also allow us to build on other investments that the foundation has already made,” said Cannon.

Weingarten stressed the important historical association between the Li Ka Shing Foundation and the U of C. Li is the chairman of Hutchinson Whampoa Limited, the group that owns Husky Energy, which has been a longtime supporter of the U of C over the past 30 years.

“[The donation] is quite consistent with the way they’ve been thinking,” said Weingarten. “One of their big items has always been teaching innovation.”

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