Friday, July 24, 2015

QS Subject Focus Summit at NTU, Singapore

Jason Ongpeng (CE Dept Chair) and the writer, Dr. Lessandro Garciano (STE Division Head)

Summit Reflections and Lessons by Dr. Lessandro Garciano

Engr. Jason Maximino C. Ongpeng and I attended the QS (Quacquarelli Symonds) Subject Focus Summit in Civil Engineering held at the Nanyang Technological Centre (NTU) from June 8 to 10, 2015.  This is the first time that QS organized a summit with civil engineering as the subject focus. Three tracks were identified by the   organizing committee as the current trends in civil engineering education. These tracks are as follows:
Track 1: Branding Civil Engineering: Rediscovering Our Narrative
Track 2: Trends in Civil Engineering Education: Professional Orientation
Track 3: Future Directions of Civil Engineering Research and its Translation to Industry
As a participant in this first-ever summit, we tried to set the following objectives:
a.       to observe how the summit is organized and conducted
b.      to promote our civil engineering department by participating in formal discussions as well as informal conversations
c.       get inputs on how to sustain research in the department
d.      get ideas from other universities on how to improve our QS standing
Before I expound on how the following objectives were met, here is the post event report from QS. The summit convened about 125 academics, senior higher education administrators and industry professionals from 26 countries. The countries that were represented were: Australia, Belgium, Brunei Darussalam, China, Egypt, France, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, The Netherlands, New Zealand, The Philippines, Portugal, Singapore, South Africa, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom and United States. Our country was represented by four delegates (two ladies from the University and two from DLSU).
The summit was well organized with keynote speakers from Asia, US and Europe. Mr. Pieter Stek, Head of External Relations – Asia, Middle East and Africa, adeptly handled the Q&A after each track by preparing engaging questions. The delegates also engaged the speakers either by asking direct questions or by sharing their specific experience in their universities or place of work. The welcome dinner, the coffee breaks and the afternoon tea served was an informal way to meet new friends, discuss in detail some issues or to meet old friends. 

During one of the breaks, Jason and I inquired from Mr. Stek the possibility of organizing a summit in the Philippines. He suggested that we come up with good themes or tracks for the summit to be able to attract delegates from Asia and the rest of the world. He also mentioned that QS charges a hosting fee and that we communicate with Mandy Mok, CEO of QS Asia regarding our interest to host a QS subject focus in DLSU-Manila.
We promoted the department and the university through informal discussions during coffee breaks and lunch. Indeed we were able to network with professors and researchers from Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Singapore, France and many others. It was a challenge to exchange a few words with the keynote speakers, but luckily I managed to talk to Professor Koichi Maekawa (“Infrastructure management and alliance with industries and public sectors”) and Professor Wang Rong (“Environmental Engineering: an Important Discipline Linked with Civil Engineering”).
Finally, with regard to sustaining the research in the department, I find the following worthwhile pursuing:
a.       Sustain research by linking with industry that can provide funds, research direction as well as industry dimension to faculty and students. As an example, Sungkyungkwan University (SKKU) partnered with Samsung that saw an increase in graduate student population, remarkable increase in research funds as well as research outputs. It is also interesting that Samsung professional lecturers helped in the teaching process.
b.      Enhance inter-disciplinary research to address societal problems. Professor Maekawa of the University of Tokyo has shown how the academe can take the lead in addressing some of society’s problems using the various technical tools at its disposal, e.g., risk identification and modeling, disaster management and mitigation, computer simulation and visualization. Professor Marianas of the University of Illinois at Urbana – Champaign also highlighted the need for the department to conduct interdisciplinary research as well as be engaged locally and globally as well. In his department, the faculty were grouped into tracks / research fields and their research are highlighted. This packaging makes it attractive for industry to engage them as external consultants.
c.       Develop further the civil engineering curriculum to address present and urgent industry needs. Although our department has four specializations, e.g., Construction Management and Technology (CTM), Hydraulics and Water Resources Engineering (HWR), Structural Engineering (STE) and Transportation Engineering (TRE), it can still be improved to a more flexible curriculum that can produce graduates who will occupy top positions in legal, leadership, research or entrepreneurial industry in the future. Prof. Ng of the Hong kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) expounded on this.
In my opinion if we can successfully implement the above directions we can attract more undergraduate and graduate students as well as faculty, increase research output and hopefully improve our QS standing.

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