Pierre Lassonde, York University and renaissance engineers

It's a big day here at York University, especially for us science & engineering types both within the Faculty of Science and Engineering and those of us who support their teaching and research missions. There's a big announcement about the coming expansion of our engineering programs to include many of the more traditional streams, such as electrical and others.

The details are being announced today at a news conference at 1pm. I'll be there livetweeting as will others, I imagine.

There was a first announcement a little while back about some government money that was being committed.

Today's will likely revolve around a large gift of $25 million from Canadian engineering entrepreneur Pierre Lassonde.

There's a nice article in the Globe and Mail today by James Bradshaw: Mining entrepreneur's university donation digging for 'renaissance engineers'.

When mining entrepreneur Pierre Lassonde announces a $25-million gift to York University on Tuesday, he's hoping it will do more than build a new engineering school - he wants to help groom a generation of "renaissance engineers."


"You are an engineer, but at the same time you are an artist and you have to be able to tell the world how what you're doing is going to benefit the world," Mr. Lassonde said, leaning across a boardroom table at the Toronto offices of the mining and energy royalty company Franco Nevada, where he is chairman.


York has wanted a full-scale engineering school since 1963, yet still has only about 300 students in specialized programs such as geomatics engineering. Now it is spending $100-million, including Mr. Lassonde's money and $50-million from the province, on a new faculty and building expected to hold 2,000 students by 2020.

Mr. Lassonde is hoping that York engineering will grow to be a leader in interdisciplinary learning and industry partnerships.

"I wouldn't accept being second to anybody, and this is our aspiration," said York president Mamdouh Shoukri, a former engineering dean.


He knows it is not a new idea that grads should be flexible, entrepreneurial and socially conscious. Engineers are already required to complete an eighth of their studies in humanities and social sciences, and cross-disciplinary programs have proliferated. In the past decade, the University of Waterloo has added engineering streams such as mechatronics, nanotechnology and management, all of which are based partly in other departments. Its systems-design degree even has a faculty member jointly appointed from the philosophy department.

And some more detailed information from York Computer Science & Engineering professor Andrew Eckford: Big news for York Engineering .

With the donation, the university's goal is to move away from the "niche" engineering programs currently in the program, and become a full-fledged "traditional" engineering school. You can expect York to add traditional engineering disciplines like civil, mechanical, and chemical over the next few years.

However, it's electrical engineering that will take the lead in expansion. I am chairing the committee that will write the EE proposal, and we're operating under the assumption that the first students will be admitted in 2013. I'll try to blog more about our progress as things develop.

And I'll certainly second Andrew's final words in his post, "For now, it's definitely an exciting time to be at York."

Yes, it'll certainly be an exciting time! And as Engineering Librarian it's going to get pretty fun and busy for me too!

Update 4pm: I did a ton of live tweeting of the announcement, some of which is here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here. The most significant new information revolves around naming the new engineering school The Lassonde School of Engineering. As well, what is now the Computer Science and Engineering Building will be known as the Lassonde Building.

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That is pretty good news. however not too excited with the name change. but more research is always better