The Faculty of Engineering has just appointed a new Dean of Faculty. Jacques Beauvais, who started his mandate on July 1, is a proud uOttawa alumnus, earning a bachelor and master’s degrees in Physics in 1985 and 1987 respectively. Dr. Beauvais worked as a professor in the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department at the Université de Sherbrooke, where he also acted as Vice-president for Research, Innovation and Entrepreneurship since 2007.
We wanted to learn more about Dr. Beauvais, who agreed to share a few words.
What is the role of a dean of faculty?
I think the most important role is supporting members of the Faculty community as everyone does their best to fulfill our mission and to achieve our vision according to our values. There are many facets to this, including some management, strategic development, troubleshooting all kinds of problems, and championing important initiatives both internally at the university and externally. I have always worked as part of a team, and today I see that team as being the entire Faculty community.
What are your goals and vision for the Faculty?
I think that today it’s critical to continue to support and to further improve experiential learning and the integration of a wider range of critical skills in the training of undergraduate and graduate students. I also would like to see the Faculty play a critical and recognized role in supporting innovation in the Canadian economy, and in order to do so, it’s necessary to support the excellent work already being done, to focus on existing strengths in research and to develop some emerging areas. To achieve these goals, one crucial element is to recognize and support all talents in the Faculty that are vital to executing our mission. I also believe we need to identify and develop additional partnerships: internal ones with other faculties and external ones with industry, academia and other types of organizations both in Canada and abroad. We need to create and sustain opportunities that enhance the Faculty’s ability to develop its high quality programs and research activities.
In your opinion, what are the main challenges the Faculty is facing?
The Faculty has seen a tremendous expansion over the last decade, and there is still considerable work to do to consolidate that growth and the series of challenges that it brings. One of these challenges being the limited growth in terms of resources. This will encourage us to be more efficient and innovative in order to be able to provide the best possible training and environment for our students, to support our faculty members as they teach and conduct world-class research, and to ensure that the Faculty has the greatest possible impact nationally and internationally.
This is not an easy challenge to address at a time when government funding is not going to increase in any significant way, but we have to find a way to move in that direction.
However, we are also seeing tremendous opportunities emerge, such as the STEM building currently being constructed, which will notably modernize our facilities for several departments and provide new opportunities for supporting entrepreneurship and hands-on learning experiences for our students. This also comes with financial challenges, which will need to be managed very carefully in the coming years.
How can we improve the student experience in 2017?
This is a very important objective but it’s still much too soon for me to give a proper answer. I need to become much more familiar with the current situation, to talk with students as well as with the key people around me and in the Departments in order to fully understand the current situation and to see what improvements we need to bring and what means need to be brought to bear on any problems.
You are already very familiar with the campus, how does it feel to be back at uOttawa?
Like most universities, it has expanded considerably since I left 30 years ago, and today I have much more of an unmistakeable feeling of being on campus than I did as a student. Since there were fewer buildings back in the early eighties, I never had a clear sense of walking off the city streets and onto the university campus, as was the case in most other universities. But today, with all the developments that have occurred over the last three decades, I have a much greater sense of being on campus. I think this is important; I love the university environment, and feeling the campus around me is a big part of being able to live and express the freedom of thought and the creativity that are central to how I perceive university life.
How did you get to be perfectly bilingual?
I don’t remember learning English. As a child, my neighbour Ricky, who was about my age, didn’t really speak French, and as far as I can remember, we always spoke English together. I’ve always assumed I learned to speak English from him, and of course from watching television.
What do you think of the city?
I’m quickly finding my way around once again, but the traffic is going to take some getting used to. It would take me about 5 minutes to get to the university in Sherbrooke. Even when they shut the bridge down for four months for repairs, it still took me less than ten minutes to get to work! While I live less than a quarter hour away from the University of Ottawa campus, depending on the time and the day, my travel time can stretch out quite a bit. The exciting aspect is that I’m rediscovering many of my favourite places around the region and I’ll have the time to revisit them whenever I feel like it. There is so much to do, see and learn, that it’s very exciting to be back.