University to design new engineering grad programs

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By Natalie Alcoba

Engineering students may soon be able to apply for a Ryerson master’s degree.

University administrators are just waiting for the four proposed master’s degrees — in chemical, mechanical civil and electrical and computer engineering — to be approved by the Ontario Council of Graduate Studies, a body made up of university representatives that regulates all graduate programs.

The university’s board of governors is also set to rubber stamp the plan, which would see the programs launched for September 2001, at its meeting next Monday.

“We are a university that is technology-oriented and want to send a message,” said Ryerson president Claude Lajeunesse. “We have the fifth largest faculty of engineering in this country at the undergraduate level, so it’s certainly time that we get involved in graduate studies.”

If implemented, the new degrees would compliment the three grad programs that already began here September — communications and culture, spatial analysis and environmental applied science and management.

Some Ryerson civil engineering professors already act as master’s thesis advisors for 33 students at other Ontario universities, said civil engineering chair Sanheev Easa, and offering its own programs just makes sense for Ryerson.

“This is a significant step for our faculty,” he said. “The demand is there for this program because Toronto is a very big industry base.”

But Ryerson also faces a lot of competition. Kenny Ling, a fourth-year civil engineering student, said he plans on attending grad school, but not here.

“Ryerson’s program will be too new,” he said. “It’s library and lab resources don’t compare to other universities like U of T.”

The proposed graduate programs also come on the heels of an announcement this week that Rena Mendelson, Ryerson’s current associate vice-president academic, has been appointed interim dean of graduate studies. The position was created to oversee the expansion of Ryerson’s grad programs, something Mendelson has focused on since Ryerson became a university in 1993.

“We’ve been anticipating the advent of graduate studies since we got university studies status,” said Mendelson, whose term in the new position will run until the end of 2001. “[Engineering] is an area of strength at Ryerson, and we think will be in high demand.”

The university’s reputation can only improve by offering the proposed programs, said Lev Kirischian, and electrical and computer engineering professor.

“When there is a school of graduate studies,” he said, “it means the academic and scientific level is much higher.”

In an effort to boost the school’s reputation, Ryerson is launching an ad campaign without the “polytechnic” in the middle of its name.

Gordon Cressy, Ryerson’s v.p. university advancement and head of the recently announced ad campaign, said the new graduate programs are bound to maintain an applied focus.

“It’s important for graduate studies to be in areas which it makes sense for Ryerson to get into,” Cressy said.

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