Celebrating the leadership and legacy of Dean Cristina Amon
Dean Cristina Amon (right) receives a standing ovation after her speech at the Celebration of Leadership event on Wednesday, June 26, 2019. (credit: Lisa Sakulensky)
On Wednesday, June 26, more than 400 members of the U of T Engineering community came together to celebrate the transformative leadership of Dean Cristina Amon and reflect on the past decade of excellence in the Faculty. Under her visionary leadership, the Faculty has become a global leader in multidisciplinary research, education and innovation.
“The past 13 years have been a remarkable journey — one we have taken together,” said Amon. “I find myself moved to have arrived at this momentous occasion in our Faculty’s history. Through our collective will, we have built a strong and vibrant community and elevated our standing as Canada’s top engineering school, and truly one of the very best in the world. I am tremendously proud of all we have accomplished.”
In recognition of Amon’s enormous impact and lasting legacy, alumnus Paul Cadario (CivMin 7T3) announced the creation of the Cristina Amon Decanal Chair in Innovation, an endowed chair to be held by all future Deans of the Faculty that will seed innovative projects in perpetuity. A testament to her unwavering dedication to fostering innovation and collaboration, the Decanal Chair will be renamed in honour of Amon upon her retirement in accordance with University policy.
“What a brilliant run for Cristina — not only the longest serving Dean in the last half-century of the University of Toronto’s stellar Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering, but one of our most successful deans ever,” said Professor Cheryl Misak, former vice-president and provost of the University of Toronto. “On every metric, Cristina soared, as did the Faculty to which she is so committed.”
From left: Dean Emeritus Michael Charles, U of T Chancellor Rose Patten, Dean Cristina Amon and Professor Ron Venter unveil a portrait of Amon by artist Joanne Tod. The portrait will be displayed in the foyer of the Myhal Centre. (credit: Lisa Sakulensky)
Professor Ron Venter (MIE) unveiled a portrait of Dean Amon, to hang in the foyer of the Myhal Centre for Innovation & Entrepreneurship. The Myhal Centre was envisioned and spearheaded by Amon as a world-class facility for the 21st century engineer. The building elevates engineering experiential education and research through technology-enhanced active learning spaces, prototyping facilities, and design studios where students, faculty and external partners can exchange ideas and launch new ventures.
Amon has enriched experiential, collaborative and active learning opportunities, and evolved the Faculty’s undergraduate and graduate programming to cultivate new generations of makers, innovators and leaders. Under her direction, U of T Engineering enriched opportunities for students to build on their strong technical foundations by developing professional competencies such as leadership, entrepreneurship and global fluency. The Faculty also created 19 undergraduate minors and certificates, on topics ranging from engineering business and advanced manufacturing to global engineering, music performance, robotics and artificial intelligence. Under her leadership, the Faculty also introduced five new majors in Engineering Science, including the latest in machine intelligence — the first undergraduate engineering program of its kind in Canada.
During the same period, U of T Engineering more than doubled graduate enrolment, launching new graduate programming from the PhD in Clinical Engineering and the Master’s in City Engineering and Management, to the 12 professional master’s emphases, starting with the ELITE (Entrepreneurship, Leadership, Innovation in Technology and Engineering) to the most recent in Analytics.
One of the many hallmarks of Amon’s deanship has been her unwavering commitment to increasing diversity and striving to create an inclusive environment so that all members of the Faculty have the opportunity to thrive. Under her leadership, U of T Engineering has almost tripled the number of women faculty members (from 20 to 57), and has been successful at recruiting outstanding undergraduate women, surpassing 40% women in the incoming class over the last three consecutive years, and tracking for more than 42% in fall 2019. Students, staff and faculty come from more than 100 countries around the world, further enriching the Skule™ community with global perspectives.
Dean Cristina Amon, second from left, speaks with alumni and guest at the Celebration of Leadership event on Wednesday, June 26, 2019. (credit: Lisa Sakulensky)
“Dean Amon has had a lasting impact on me, both as a U of T student and as a young woman in engineering,” said Shivani Nathoo (EngSci 1T8+PEY), president of the Engineering Society, 2018-2019. “Through her amazing leadership, she has shown what it means to stand up for your beliefs and make a difference. U of T Engineering today looks very different from when she started, and it’s credit to her hard work and dedication towards students and the student experience.”
“Dean Amon has led extraordinary growth and change at U of T Engineering,” said Professor Chris Yip, who will succeed Amon as Dean and become the first to hold the Decanal Chair in Innovation. “Through her inspired efforts and engagement, we now have the unparalleled talent — from students to staff and faculty — innovative educational programming, as well as the facilities and partnerships in place to drive the innovations, technologies and industries that will come to define our future.”
Luís M. A. Bettencourt is Pritzker Director of the Mansueto Institute for Urban Innovation and a Professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolution and the College. He is also an External Professor of Complex Systems at the Santa Fe Institute.
He was trained as a theoretical physicist and obtained his Licenciatura from Instituto Superior Técnico (Lisbon, Portugal) in 1992, and his PhD from Imperial College (University of London, UK) in 1996 for research in statistical and high-energy physics models of the early Universe. He has held postdoctoral positions at the University of Heidelberg (Germany), Los Alamos National Laboratory (Director’s Fellow and Slansky Fellow) and at MIT (Center for Theoretical Physics).
He has worked extensively on complex systems theory and on cities and urbanization, in particular. His research emphasizes the creation of new interdisciplinary synthesis to describe cities in quantitative and predictive ways, informed by classical theory from various disciplines and the growing availability of empirical data worldwide.
He is the author of over 100 scientific papers and several edited books. His research has been featured in leading media venues, such as the New York Times, Nature, Wired, New Scientist, and the Smithsonian.
Dr. Enid Slack
Discussant Dr. Enid Slack is the Director of the Institute on Municipal Finance and Governance (IMFG) at the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy at the University of Toronto. IMFG focuses exclusively on the fiscal health and governance challenges faced by large cities and city-regions. Enid has written extensively on property taxes, municipal fiscal health, intergovernmental transfers, development charges, financing municipal infrastructure, and metropolitan governance. Recent co-edited books (with Richard Bird) include Financing Infrastructure: Who Should Pay and Is Your City Healthy? Measuring Urban Fiscal Health. Enid consults on municipal finance and governance issues with governments and international agencies such as the World Bank, IMF, UN Habitat, Asian Development Bank, Inter-American Development Bank, and International Growth Centre. She has consulted in Canada as well as Brazil, Chile, China, Colombia, India, Mexico, Mongolia, the Philippines, South Africa, Tanzania, and Uganda. She is a member of the Board of Advisors of the International Property Tax Institute (IPTI). In 2012, Enid was awarded the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal for her work on cities.
Professor Steve Easterbrook
Discussant Professor Steve M. Easterbrook is Director, School of the Environment and Professor, Department of Computer Science, University of Toronto. Professor Easterbrook’s research interests range from modelling and analysis of complex adaptive systems to the socio-cognitive aspects of team interaction. His current research is in climate informatics, where he studies how climate scientists develop computational models to improve their understanding of earth systems and climate change, and the broader question of how that knowledge is shared with other communities.
Dr. Judy Farvolden
Moderator Dr. Judy Farvolden is the Executive Director of the University of Toronto Transportation Research Institute (UTTRI). This appointment brings her back full circle to transportation research after two decades in financial risk management and banking technology. In that time she held senior management roles in professional services, research management, communications, business development and software development. Graduate studies in both urban planning and transportation and operations research have prepared her to collaborate effectively with large, multidisciplinary teams.
Dr. Farvolden is responsible for developing and maintaining government and industrial partnerships to support UTTRI operations on an on-going, sustainable basis. She develops collaborations among UTTRI faculty, and with government and industry partners, to address challenges and opportunities they address on behalf of our communities. Dr. Farvolden is a member of the Toronto Region Board of Trade’s Smart Cities Working Group and serves on the boards of the Canadian Urban Institute and WTS Toronto Area Chapter.