Nov. 2, 2023
Schulich teaching professor named to prestigious hall of fame
Her journey in engineering education has been unconventional, and Dr. Marjan Eggermont wouldn’t have it any other way.
A professor (teaching) in the Department of Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering at the Schulich School of Engineering, she is also the interim associate dean of sustainability and has been a driving force of the new Sustainable Systems Engineering program.
Eggermont, BA’91, BFA’96, MFA’98, PhD’18, has also received many accolades since joining the University of Calgary’s faculty in 2002, most recently being named to the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) Hall of Fame.
However, she’s not an engineer.
A researcher fluent in bio-inspired design, biomimicry and computational media design, Eggermont became an ASEE member in 2004 and says she has learned so much from everyone involved in the organization, which has helped guide her own teachings.
The power of connection
Eggermont prides herself on providing students with a point of connection — not just with fellow students, faculty and staff, but also with the world.
“The connections students make and the reformatting of the way they think is the most important aspect of an education,” she says.
“It is this ability — making connections — that is at the heart of being a creative problem-solver and is a skill that has lifelong benefits, making us open-minded, innovative and appreciative human beings.”
That connection is highlighted in the work being done at Schulich surrounding hands-on, experiential learning, which gives students more opportunities to work together on ideas and projects.
“We have been on the leading edge of change, especially in design classes, which is where my involvement has been,” Eggermont says. “As an example, Schulich was the first engineering school in Canada to have a first-year design course.”
A lot to take in
While the landscape of engineering education has changed drastically with experiential learning, Eggermont says the COVID-19 pandemic was also a major disruption that we haven’t fully processed from a student perspective.
She says we need to take a true pause to think about what we learned.
“We need to really think about what we learned and what worked during the pandemic and what worked before that time,” Eggermont says.
“We need to create space, as well — space for students to process and space for academics to think — as this is a new period and things have changed, but we haven’t taken the time to redesign.”
It’s a lot to ask of everyone, she says, as society is also trying to grapple with the current geopolitical climate, climate change and new technologies like ChatGPT.
“We have to urgently and actively work on creating new approaches, new knowledge and new job opportunities for our graduates in service of our planet,” Eggermont says. “Engineering is changing, and engineering education has to be ahead of that change.”
Inspired by her colleagues
Eggermont’s approach to engineering education hasn’t been lost on those who submitted letters of support of her ASEE Hall of Fame selection.
ASEE past-president and University of Cincinnati professor Dr. Sheryl Sorby, PhD, says Eggermont is a leader for our society and a thought leader for the profession.
“Her work in bio-inspired design is timely and of great importance to the engineering education community,” Sorby wrote. “As engineers, we tend to be driven too much by profits and the bottom line. Marjan’s work in helping to change our culture and our way of thinking about design has the potential for great impact on our profession.”
Overjoyed by the recognition, Eggermont says she is ultimately inspired by what she learns from ASEE members during their presentations each year.
“As a non-engineer, it has been my yearly boot camp,” she says. “All those experiences were very valuable to me, and I got to know many amazing engineers who are all very passionate about teaching and their students.”
The ASEE Hall of Fame induction ceremony is scheduled for June 23 to 26, 2024 in Portland, Ore.