New school chair talks about the future in the second-season debut of Field Notes podcast

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Karen and John Huff School Chair Donald Webster
Webster

The sophomore season of the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering’s Field Notes podcast debuted August 15, featuring a conversation with new Karen and John Huff School Chair Donald Webster.

Webster sat down to talk about his vision for the School and the opportunities he sees ahead. He also laid out what he sees as the school chair’s role.

“I really look at it as a facilitator of success,” Webster said. “Once we’ve defined our goals, how do we get there? What resources do we need? What wheels need to be greased?

“It takes a lot of effort and a lot of creativity to come up with [those] solutions sometimes.”

Webster discussed the potential for innovation in the School’s curriculum, including getting students involved in civil and environmental engineering courses earlier in their college careers at Georgia Tech.

“They really don't get those discipline-specific courses until probably their third year. At that point, they may have changed their interests,” he said, “because they may not have realized what impact they can have within this field and what their opportunities are.”

Webster said changes to the accrediting process for engineering programs offers some new flexibility to try ideas like that in the next few years. He also suggested the School will be trying new approaches to capitalize on the already broad reach of its research endeavors.

“The breadth of things that our faculty and students are working on is almost overwhelming; that really speaks to the nature of civil and environmental engineering and how broad it is,” he said. “There's a real opportunity to frame some of those things in more synergistic ways. Like smart cities — it's almost become a buzzword already, but it gives a topical area where many people can partner and bring different skill sets from very different perspectives together to address some of the really challenging issues. Big data is another.

“What I hope to see in the next few years is more of those connections.”

The conversation with Webster begins a new series of Field Notes podcasts for the 2018-2019 academic year. Designed to offer insight and interesting conversations for current and prospective students as well as alumni and friends of the School, the podcast will roll out four new episodes during the fall semester.

Previous Field Notes episodes are available on Soundcloud and on the School’s website.