Letter from Dean Aylor

One hundred and seventy-five years ago, the Board of Visitors made civil engineering a formal course of study at the University of Virginia. In doing so, it set an example that guides the Engineering School today. In 1836, the board was responding to the needs of a nation embracing the Industrial Revolution. The United States required engineers to build machinery for its factories, bridges for its turnpikes, and locks for its canals. The University created a "department" of engineering to prepare young people to take on these challenges. Service to society remains the primary purpose of the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. Our responsibility is to equip the current generation of students with the knowledge they need to build the infrastructure of the 21st century.

In creating a school of civil engineering, the Board of Visitors also demonstrated its openness to innovation. At the time, there were just three institutions of higher learning in the United States wholly devoted to engineering instruction. With its 1836 resolution, the University of Virginia became the first enduring engineering program established in the South and the first in the nation at a comprehensive university.

The drive to innovate is as strong today as it was 175 years ago. The Engineering School constantly strives to enhance the educational opportunities it offers students, through such programs as the Business Minor and internships in science and technology policy. In research, Engineering School faculty members are setting the agenda in a score of fields.

The 1836 resolution creating an engineering program at U.Va. reminds us that today's School reflects the collective efforts of many people. Creating the School took the vision and determination of two faculty members — Charles Bonnycastle and William Barton Rogers — and the foresight of the Board of Visitors. At every stage in the School's evolution, groups of individuals have stepped forward to make this School even better.

I am glad to say that this is no less true today. The School has just completed an ambitious strategic plan, designed to realize our goal of "empowering people to create a better future." We have mapped out strategies to strengthen the School, to prepare our graduates for leadership, to heighten the impact of our research and to reach more people. By working together, we will ensure that the Engineering School continues its long tradition of innovation and service to society.


James H. Aylor, Dean

Louis T. Rader Professor of Electrical Engineering