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How engineering was launched in Regina

By Dale Johnson Posted: March 22, 2016 3:00 p.m.

These engineering students at Regina College in 1960 could take only their first year of studies before transferring to the U of S in Saskatoon to earn their degrees.
These engineering students at Regina College in 1960 could take only their first year of studies before transferring to the U of S in Saskatoon to earn their degrees. Photo: U of R Archives

Today’s success of the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science is built on a solid foundation that goes back 50 years.

Engineering was the third professional college established at Regina Campus – after education and administration.

In March 1966 – 50 years ago this month – the president of the University of Saskatchewan, Dr. J.W.T. Spinks, approved a college of engineering for Regina Campus.

Although first-year engineering classes had been taught in Regina since 1945, students had to go to Saskatoon to earn their degree.
In making the announcement of a college of engineering in Regina, it meant that:

  •     second-year classes would be offered right away
  •     a dean of engineering in Regina would be appointed
  •     third- and fourth-year class would be offered as staff and facilities permitted
  •     and an engineering building would be constructed in Regina

The Leader-Post newspaper reported on March 4, 1966: “Dr. W. A. Riddell, principal of Regina Campus, said the fields of specialization offered in Regina would complement rather than duplicate programs offered in Saskatoon. Courses in the first and second year would be such to allow students to move easily from one campus to the other for chosen specialities. Industrial engineering might be one of the initial developments at Regina Campus.”

The head of the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the College of Engineering in Saskatoon, John B. Mantle, was appointed the first dean of engineering in Regina. In 1969, he proposed a co-operative education program in which students would spend one semester doing practical work in the engineering field for every two semesters they spent in the classroom. The concept was in use in some other universities across in North America, and it helped to make sure the Regina program would be different than the one offered in Saskatoon. In the years since then, the concept has been expanded to other faculties at the University of Regina.

The engineering program suffered some growing pains. Plans to offer a complete degree in Regina were put in doubt in the early 1970s due to a cutback in provincial funding. One consultant recommended the program be closed down; but the board of governors rejected that idea.

Another study recommended that Regina specialize in industrial and electronic systems engineering. Building on that concept, the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science now offers five undergraduate degree programs in systems engineering, as well as master’s and Ph.D. programs in six engineering disciplines. The Faulty currently has 1,286 undergraduate students and 410 graduate students.

Today's variety of courses and number of students could not have been envisioned half a century ago, when an engineering program in Regina was first given approval.