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Engineering a kinder and gentler world

Generous alumni donation will support engineering programs that take a socially responsible approach to professional practices
May 27, 2014
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By Scott McCulloch

Two Concordia alumni are putting a distinctly social touch on engineering, influencing how graduates will shape the planet in their chosen profession.

Susan Raymer, BA 71, and Ben Wygodny, BA 69, through a generous donation will help engineering students develop skills to gauge the social, ethical and environmental ramifications of their engineering projects.

Susan Raymer and Ben Wygodny Susan Raymer and Ben Wygodny | Photo credit: Louise Morgan

“We view it as an investment in people,” says Raymer, president of Montreal-based Rayrow Realties.

Raymer’s husband, Ben Wygodny, who heads wealth management firm Angus Partnership, adds: “It is an investment in students with the hope they’ll bring something positive to society.”

The donation will support the Global Engineering Initiative at the Faculty of Engineering and Computer Science’s Centre for Engineering in Society (CES).

Global engineering approaches projects through the lens of ethics, sustainability, community needs and other socially sensitive areas.

Cultural sensitivity is not only needed for product designs destined for foreign markets. Engineers often need intercultural skills to collaborate with diverse colleagues.

“What we’re better able to do now is to position Concordia as a catalyst for change,” says CES Chair Deborah Dysart-Gale. “We’re providing essential elements to a new cohort of student leaders, ensuring they have not only technical skills, but a big-picture understanding of the world’s seemingly intractable problems.”

“We are grateful to Susan Raymer and Ben Wygodny for their foresight, generosity and continued engagement with their alma mater,” says Concordia President Alan Shepard. “The Centre for Engineering delivers on Concordia’s promise to prepare students for the real world.”

Wygodny recognizes a need to improve students’ grasp of the social implications of engineering activities.

“We want engineers to think outside of their specific discipline and see what they’re proposing or how their designs will affect society,” he says.

Through the Global Engineering Initiative, students will add sustainable engineering practices to their arsenal of technical skills. Concordia’s District 3, an innovation centre that helps start-ups, will be a key partner.

As for the Centre for Engineering in Society, its wider plans are to become a global engineering hub based on three pillars.

The first — immersive learning — would see students meet global engineering employers, attend boot camps on leadership and communications and pursue courses abroad.

“Students bring back so much knowledge when they see how engineering issues play out elsewhere,” says Dysart-Gale. “They bring a new perspective to their professional practice back home and are also sensitized to how they can play a stronger role in tackling global problems.”

The second pillar focuses on collaborative work and the “creation of an ecosystem of global technology awareness.” 

Students will hone their teamwork skills with peers in business, economics, marketing and political science fields, work with faculty outside of Concordia or with engineers in remote communities.

For example, there will be opportunities for students to work on challenging projects with First Nations peoples in northern Quebec.

The third area — knowledge communication — will build on the first two with a view to the Centre for Engineering in Society becoming a key destination for those who seek know-how on global engineering best practices, training or research opportunities.

The Global Engineering Initiative will enable students to connect with people from other disciplines and cultures and, in some cases, collaborate with Engineers Without Borders.

Other projects will be web-based with collaborators in Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia.



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