The future of engineering at the University of Lethbridge could look very different thanks to the support of industry and the southern Alberta community.
After being offered at the U of L for more than 30 years, the Pre-Professional Transfer Program in Engineering underwent a curriculum review and realignment in 2013. When the program relaunched in 2015, it was met with an overwhelming response from students and industry alike, with more than double the applications for the available spaces.
Local engineers, Mark Bellamy, P. Eng. (senior principal at Stantec Consulting Ltd.), Ron Hust, P. Eng. (chief executive officer of MPE Engineering), Vivien Kossuth, P. Eng. (independent mechanical consultant) and Olivier Lefebvre, P. Eng. (general manager of Plant 32 for Pratt & Whitney Canada), are standing together to show their support of the program.
Bellamy and Kossuth are part of the initial advisory committee of industry professionals who are helping to shape the future of the program. In addition to lending their professional support to the program, all four have backed it with finances and created a variety of student awards and scholarships.
“Pratt & Whitney is very excited to establish a leadership award that will support students and promote engineering, science and technology to students at a very young age,” says Lefebvre.
For Kossuth, supporting and inspiring the next generation of engineers, particularly female engineers, is a top priority.
“Being a woman in engineering is not easy. It has its challenges but it definitely has its rewards,” she says. “I believe that supporting women in engineering, retaining them and advancing them in their careers is definitely about leadership — and it’s leadership by everyone.”
Support for the program is quickly growing. There are now 10 awards specifically for engineering transfer students in addition to new program support. Frances Schultz came forward in 2015 to honour her late husband, Dr. Arvid Schultz, who was one of the founders of the original program more than three decades ago. The funding will be used to further advance the program. In fact, the interest in engineering within the local community and the community of professional engineers has been so overwhelming that discussions regarding the introduction of a full four-year engineering program at the U of L are now taking place.
Again, Bellamy and Kossuth are at the forefront and are part of an advisory committee working with faculty members and administrators, including Dan Furgason, associate Chair of the Department of Physics and Astronomy, as the University looks to grow its professional programs. “When a small group of highly interested and motivated students is exposed to the wealth of knowledge and experience possessed by a practicing professional, the results are transformational for the student," says Furgason. "We are so grateful to the many engineers who have supported the program and who have shared their expertise and experiences.”
“There is tremendous opportunity for a four-year engineering program at the U of L,” says Bellamy, who went through the transfer program in 1984. “Currently, approximately 80 per cent of eligible students aren’t able to get into an engineering program in Alberta. Couple that with the potential of tying engineering with existing U of L programs and it’s incredibly exciting.”
In addition to meeting students’ needs, an engineering program in southern Alberta will be advantageous to the entire profession, says Hust.
“With only two engineering programs in Alberta, we have trouble attracting engineers to smaller communities,” he says. “Hopefully, having a four-year engineering program in Lethbridge will help us attract engineers to stay in the city.”
While the task ahead may seem daunting, Bellamy is quick to go back to the U of L’s founders. “Just think about the community leaders who believed Lethbridge needed a university in the early 1960s and all they were able to accomplish.”