Deans set goals

DANIEL McCABE | John Gruzleski is betting that the next five years will be kinder to his faculty. Morty Yalovsky is banking on doing a lot more business with people like John Gruzleski.

On Monday, Gruzleski's appointment as the next dean of engineering and Yalovsky's reappointment as the dean of continuing education were approved by the Board of Governors. Both men begin their new terms on June 1.

A professor of mining and metallurgical engineering, Gruzleski earned the Engineering Alumni Award for outstanding teaching in 1985 and several major prizes for his research, including the Metallurgical Society of the Canadian Institute of Mining and Metallurgical Engineering's Alcan and Dofasco awards.

A McGill faculty member since 1969, Gruzleski has twice chaired his department in the past for a total of 11 years.

"We've just gone through one of the worst five year periods in McGill's history, but with the government budget cuts hopefully at an end, I'm feeling very optimistic about the next five years," says Gruzleski.

"I believe we have, on average, one of the oldest academic staffs of any major university in Canada, so I very much see academic renewal as one of my priorities."

And most of the hiring will be focused on professors near the beginning of their careers. "I really believe we should hire young [people]. I think you get the most bang for the buck by bringing people in and having them develop their careers here."

An influx of young new faculty can cause complications too, acknowledges Gruzleski. "Someone fresh off a PhD and a couple of years as a post-doc won't be as seasoned as a professor in mid-career. We'll have to be a little careful about what we ask them to do in terms of the size of their classes and their administrative and teaching responsibilities.

"We also have to help them get their feet on the ground, by offering start-up grants and support in getting research grants. At that stage, new professors have a lot of things thrown at them -- the pressures of starting a research program and thinking about tenure. We don't want to overwhelm anybody."

Gruzleski also intends to reinforce what he sees as his faculty's central mission. "Engineering is industrially oriented. It's our raison d'être. In the '60s and '70s, we tended to hire [faculty] who did very scientific PhDs. I don't think you want an engineering faculty that's too scientifically oriented. The danger is you become too divorced from industry."

He would like to see more interaction with industry, involving both his professors and his students. Professors might sign up for summer work terms at companies, tackling research projects tied to their expertise and of interest to the companies.

With firms cutting back on their own R&D budgets, the time could be ripe for such arrangements, says Gruzleski, who adds that as a young professor, "I did that for two or three years and it was a big help." He made valuable connections and in the process of working on industrial projects, discovered research topics that he later pursued with support from both NSERC and corporations.

Gruzleski has played a leading role in developing co-op programs for both the mining and metallurgy programs in his department and admires the Faculty of Engineering's growing internship program.

"It sounds as if we have more jobs than students to fill them. I want to keep encouraging that activity and hopefully get more students to participate. Increasingly, employers are looking to see if engineering graduates have had these kinds of experiences when they're out to hire new staff."

One of the first phone calls Gruzleski receives once he becomes dean might be from Yalovsky.

As the head of McGill's Centre for Continuing Education since 1993, Yalovsky has been a tireless advocate of tighter links between his centre and McGill's faculties.

"It was a struggle at first, but the message is finally getting out there. [Chairs and deans] return my phone calls more quickly now," laughs Yalovsky.

"The whole concept of lifelong learning is becoming an essential part of the way we live. The days of getting one degree and then you're done are largely over. People find they have to go back to school at various points in their career to acquire new skills."

But going back to school doesn't necessarily mean getting a master's degree or a PhD, says Yalovsky.

"Sometimes all you need is something that's intermediary or very focused in its scope. A master's program tends to be research oriented. Some people need something that has a more professional orientation -- a graduate certificate or a graduate diploma." A degree they can do part-time at night while they continue to work.

"We often don't have the academic expertise to offer a program by ourselves -- the experts are in the faculties. But we have the experience and the ability to help market and develop programs working with the faculties," says Yalovsky.

The centre has built up a series of partnerships with McGill departments, offering a course on venture capital for a graduate degree offered by the Department of Experimental Medicine, for instance, or collaborating with the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering to teach a summer program on microelectronics design. The centre also works with the Faculty of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences in offering professional development courses and seminars in areas like agricultural engineering and human nutrition.

Another area Yalovsky wants to build on is the sterling reputation of his centre's language programs in English and French. The courses attract students from across the province and around the world. According to surveys, "while they're here [for language training], they often want to develop other skills at the same time. Maybe we can build some interesting links with our certificate programs in management."

Another possibility involves the Faculty of Graduate Studies and Research. "Sometimes students have the other skills they need to pursue graduate studies at McGill, but not the language skills. We might be able to help out."

A management science professor with a background in mathematics and statistics, Yalovsky has developed a keen entrepreneurial edge since taking on his current job.

He sees his centre building more links to companies. "They're often interested in portions of our professional development programs -- cutting and pasting a part of the program and offering it to their staff."

One area Yalovsky says he'll back away from is the general studies side of his centre -- offering courses in things like the history of rock and roll for the pure pleasure of learning. "The market hasn't been particularly good to us in that area. It's been on the decline for awhile now."