Dean's Introduction: Diversity is Key


Published: 18Nov2022

Our decision to hold in-person activities at Homecoming this Fall has been welcomed by alumni and I look forward to seeing many of you at events this week. The Dean’s cocktail and the Peter Guo-hua Fu School of Architecture Breakfast, hosted by the School’s Director, Prof. David Theodore, have strong participation already, and our latest addition this year, the McGill Engine Open House, is also filling up. This is a wonderful opportunity to reconnect with old friends and colleagues – I invite you to register if you haven’t already done so.

In this month’s newsletter, we bring you a Q&A with Nia Fernandez, Ph.D., who stepped into the new role of Manager for E-IDEA – the Faculty’s Engineering Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity Advancement initiative – this past May. They will be working with our new Associate Dean of Faculty Affairs, Prof. Michael Kokkolaras, and McGill’s Equity Office to help further our commitment to creating a more equitable and inclusive environment within the Faculty of Engineering and throughout our community.

Nia has already begun determining the programs and priorities ensure we’re on track for building a culture where everyone has a voice and everyone’s voice is heard. Their biggest challenge is deciding where trained part-time staff will devote their time. We have several successful E-IDEA programs which are helping promote opportunities in STEMM for underrepresented groups and supporting instructors to increase awareness in their classrooms and course materials.

We want our students to graduate knowing that diverse populations are essential to helping solve the most complex problems the world has seen. Nia needs alumni support to build a core team that is full-time and can help deliver on the important programs that have evolved since E-IDEA first became a reality in 2016.

The 9th Annual Symposium of the Trottier Institute for Sustainability in Engineering and Design (TISED), “Confronting Climate Change with Design for Resilience,” took place in September. World-renowned guests Henk Ovink and Marina Tabassum discussed how their work has contributed to climate-resilient living solutions. What we do as a Faculty and a University to promote sustainability and diversity on campus echoes what we see as essential considerations for our students to incorporate into their practice as they step into the world. We aim for students to understand how ideas for our planet’s sustainability are dependent on many factors, some that they can act on with the deep knowledge acquired in their coursework, and some that involve truly appreciating how a diversity of perspectives leads us to better solutions for everyone.
If you did not attend the live symposium, set aside time to watch the recording included at the end of the article. Listening to the experiences of Ovink and Tabassum is, as event moderator Prof. Nik Luca pointed out, humbling. I find it incredibly uplifting to witness the efforts of these two design experts as they respond to the force of something as natural as the flow of water by engaging those who have been impacted and considering their needs above all else to develop the best possible solutions.

Jim A. Nicell, Ph.D., P.Eng., FCAE. Dean,
Faculty of Engineering, McGill University
Tel: (514) 398-7251 | Fax: (514) 398-7379 | Email: jim.nicell [at]

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