As the Society’s Past President, I was involved in a number of things, including serving as Chair of the By-Laws and Nominating Committees, as well as of the Advisory Council of Past Presidents. As such, I convened the Council of Past Presidents last 23 October 2014, which was attended by 5 Past-Presidents, the current President and President-Elect, and our Society Manager. We discussed critical items for the Society from the point of view of each participant, including those initiatives from past terms that may have been lost in transition but still have significant potential value to the Society. As Chair of the By-Laws Committee, I have been compiling throughout the year any needed amendments to the By-Laws that has come up, in particular those pertaining to eligibility to Member Emeritus status as well as those needed to be in compliance with new requirements of the Canada Corporations Act. These proposed By-Laws amendments will be put forward for approval by the general membership at the upcoming AGM. At the same time, I have compiled the changes needed for the Procedures & Operations Manual to keep it up-to-date, particularly those dealing with procedures related to Member Emeritus and the guidelines for Fellows nomination. As part of the tasks of the Nominating Committee, I have worked with the Council to identify positions with term ending this year, and to search for suitable nominees for the impending vacancies. The slate of candidates will be standing for elections which will be held in time for the AGM. Finally, as an ex-officio member of the Awards Committee, I have worked with the committee Chair in evaluating the nominees and selecting the awardees for the various Society Awards to be given out at the upcoming AGM.
We tried to provide a clear structure for this year’s annual report for each Council position by implementing a simple template which includes a brief description of duties of the position, followed by a statement of goals and plans when the year/term started, actual accomplishments during the year, and then plans for the coming year (for those with multi-year terms). The list of duties and responsibilities of the President as described in the Society’s By-Laws may seem mostly ministerial and administrative such as chairing meetings, appointing persons to committees, among others, but in my view, it is the responsibility of the President to steer the Society towards its goals while ensuring that the Society keeps functioning as best as it could. In that sense, I take full responsibility for all the developments and progress (or the lack thereof) that took place over the past year, without taking credit away from the various other Council members and specific individuals who were actually involved in carrying out the bulk of the work.
As stated in my very first contribution to this column, my goals for the year focus on three aspects: (1). continuing with the implementation and possibly developing new initiatives in response to the recommendations of the Strive report; (2). streamlining the function and operation of the Council; and (3). continuing the efforts to revitalize the CSBE journal. In terms of accomplishments, thanks to the members of the Membership Engagement Committee chaired by Fahimeh Yazdanpanah, a number of regional activities were carried out over the past year and a few more are in the planning stages for the coming year. This is the first year that we have actually organized something like this, providing seed funding to the Regional Directors to initiate and implement their plans; it is understandable that there is still some learning to do but we are hoping that as the Regional Directors gain more experience in carrying out activities within their regions to engage our members, then in the long run this would turn out to be a sustained series of worthwhile activities over the years to come.
On the streamlining of the Council, we have introduced performance standards for Council members, mainly to establish guidelines for acceptable performance and expected outcomes from each position. Additionally, Qiang Zhang led the effort in updating our Bylaws as well as the Operations Manual, mainly to ensure that the functions of each position are well-defined and our internal processes are adequately described and documented such that they are very useful particularly for those who are new to the Council. One such process updated by René Morissette and Grant Clark is our own elections, which we are now going to conduct through online voting to help facilitate wider participation by general membership.
On the CSBE Journal revitalization, a Steering Committee headed by Suresh Neethirajan has been formed and given the task of finding out ways to improve the operations of the journal with the eventual goal of increasing the number of quality manuscripts that we publish, while ensuring that its overall operation is financially sustainable. Given that the business of journal publication has been becoming increasingly competitive in recent years, the committee is working with our journal editor to ensure that the various means identified for improving efficiencies, cutting down the time for adjudicating and processing manuscripts, and promoting the journal to expand readership and the number of submitted manuscripts, are carried out effectively.
I would just add that this year we will have a joint annual meeting with ASABE and so I would like to recognize all the individuals who are putting in extra effort in preparation for the conference. I would invite all our members to join me in expressing our gratitude to them by actually participating in the conference to ensure the success of the event.
In summary, I believe that we accomplished significant strides over the past year, but I would be the first one to admit that there were things that we could have been done better and there’s still a lot to be done. I am thankful for the opportunity to serve the Society and I am very much indebted to all individuals, both in the Council and the general membership, who undertook this journey with me.
“The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step” - Lao Tze.
I think of the Society as a ship on a journey, albeit a ship much like those we would find during the very early years of maritime history, powered only by sails and operated by a crew working together efficiently to keep the ship afloat and set in the right direction. In such a ship, there are no paying passengers; each person on board has a specific duty which must be carried out diligently to keep the ship functioning properly, particularly when facing rough seas. I believe this is very much true of our Society; each member has to be engaged in the operation of the Society in order to keep going and to survive.
“Everything that can be counted does not necessarily count; everything that counts cannot necessarily be counted” - Einstein
By the time this newsletter comes out, we would have been about 243 days into the term of the current Council and about 128 days till the new Council takes over in July (taking into account the actual AGM dates). But why am I counting, given the above quote from Einstein? I guess this pre-disposition to quantify things comes from my regular day job, wherein we routinely measure (or count) things in order to know where we are at present and to map out a better way to move forward. I believe that spending some time to pause for a while and take stock of the current situation is necessary in order to move towards achieving the goals we have set for ourselves.
"Time is like money, the less we have of it to spare the further we make it go." – Josh Billings
I was looking at previous editions of our Perspectives Newsletter and I noticed that almost all past presidents of the Society has stated at one time or another that time flies during their term. Frankly, I did not put much thought about it until now that I am learning first hand that time does appear to zip by unusually fast when you are in this position!
So what are some of the things that we should be taking care of before time runs out? First, by now each member should have their membership renewed already, or at least currently in the process of renewing it. If not, you only have until December 31st to get it done. Unfortunately, we had to introduce an increase in membership dues for the coming year; this was necessary to keep the Society going, otherwise, the Society's financial situation will be untenable within a short span of time. While at it, please do consider donating some dollars to the CSBE Foundation; each contribution will go a long way in helping realize the Foundation's initiatives to help the Society over time.
Dear CSBE/SCGAB members:
As you know, we will have a joint Annual Meeting with ASABE next year in Montreal. At the meeting, we will have a joint Awards Ceremony, wherein the CSBE/SCGAB Major Awards will be presented and new CSBE/SCGAB Fellows will be recognized together with ASABE awardees. To achieve this, we need to accelerate our timeline for nominations for CSBE/SCGAB Awards and Fellows and the subsequent selection of awardees.
Let us make this a success and nominate worthy CSBE/SCGAB colleagues for these awards.
“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” - Einstein
If you have been following this section of the Newsletter in the past, you will probably find that this particular piece will be a little bit different, starting with the quote above. In fact, over the term of the new CSBE Council which started in July at the AGM in Saskatoon, we will aim to do things differently. For the benefit of those members unable to attend the conference, I would like to reiterate some of the remarks I made at the AGM when I officially took over as President of the Society. I started by explaining that my reasons for taking on this responsibility was greatly influenced by the concept known as ‘By-stander Syndrome’.
As President-Elect, my main task is to carry out forward planning for the Society, which I have tried to undertake over the past year as best as I can. Since being officially designated as President-Elect of the Society at the AGM in Orillia last year, I have participated in all 6 Council meetings, chaired the newly-convened Student Engagement Committee, and also joined the meetings of the Finance sub-committee. I have also worked with the Nominations Committee chaired by Past-President Ron MacDonald in identifying and contacting nominees for upcoming vacancies in the Council, particularly for the Alberta Regional Director position. I am also currently involved in the Local Organizing Committee for the AGM in Saskatoon this year. In addition, I had a couple of face-to-face meetings in Saskatoon with President Zhang as well as a number of phone conversations with him over the past year discussing current critical issues facing the Society as well as future directions and initiatives that can be considered by the Society leadership to ensure long-term sustainability.
One highlight of the past year was the convening of the Student Engagement Committee in response to the Strive Report. While the Committee was originally tasked “to prepare an action plan for engaging and attracting students” to the Society, the scope has evolved to planning and implementing regional activities to engage all current and potential members in the different regions represented in the Society. I have served as Chair of this Committee, with 10 members including all the Regional Directors, VP-Regional, and two invited members (Department Chairs from two universities). The Committee had four meetings over the past year, out of which a document outlining the mechanisms for funding, approval, and reporting of regional activities has been developed; this document has been presented to the Council and was subsequently approved for implementation. Additionally, a related document describing the duties of regional directors, the potential regional activities that can be carried out, and the procedure for organizing such activities, has been drafted by the Committee to help Regional Directors in planning and carrying out member engagement activities within their region.
The highlights of the past year included the appointment of Dr. Ernie Barber as Acting Dean of the College of Engineering at the University of Saskatchewan, effective July 1, 2010. Dr. Barber is a longtime member of CSBE and began his academic career as faculty member in the college. Effective July 1, 2010, the departments of Agricultural and Bioresource Engineering and Chemical Engineering at the College of Engineering, University of Saskatchewan were merged into a new Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering. The new department will continue to deliver two separate undergraduate programs: Agricultural and Bioresource Engineering, and Chemical Engineering. While no changes have been made either to the graduate and undergraduate programs as a result of the restructuring, a Task Force has been formed with mandate to help define the presence of Biological Engineering within the College. The initial phase of the work of the Task Force has been completed, with recommendations to pursue a broad-based Biological Engineering program in the College.
The membership roster listed 116 members with Saskatchewan address who paid membership dues for the past year. This number is up slightly from 106 in the previous year; more interestingly, a total of 81 members renewed their membership from previous year, about 26 dropped out, and 35 new members signed up or re-activated their previously inactive membership.
CBE Department highlights
The CBE Department hosted the 2010 ASABE/CSBE North Central Inter-Sectional Conference held in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan on October 17-19, 2010. A total of about 35 technical papers were presented by faculty, staff, and students from the University of Saskatchewan, University of Manitoba, North Dakota State University, and South Dakota State University.
The University of Saskatchewan Sled Dogs ¼ Scale Tractor Team placed 4th overall in a field of over 20 competitors at the ASABE ¼ Scale Tractor Student Design Competition in Peoria, IL, last June 2010. The Sled Dogs won awards for Best Manufacturability, Best Appearance, Best Craftsmanship, and Best for Safety Consideration.
During the 2011 Spring Convocation, fourteen (14) undergraduate students from the Department will convocate with a degree in Agriculture and Bioresource Engineering, one with Great Distinction (Nicholas Allen Hall) and 2 with Distinction honours (Chantal Quesnel, Danielle Nicole Quesnel).
Additionally, the Oliver L. Symes Memorial Award will be conferred to Nicholas Allen Hall for garnering the top honours from among the graduands in the Department, while Chantal Quesnel will receive the Clinton L. Armstrong Memorial Award for being the top graduand with courses in the area of soil and water engineering.
Bernardo Predicala, Research Scientist at the Prairie Swine Centre in Saskatoon, SK, and Adjunct Faculty at the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering at University of Saskatchewan, has been named as an Outstanding Reviewer for the Structure and Environment Division of the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers (ASABE) journal publications. This honour is given to 10 to 11 reviewers from among the more than 900 reviewers who participated each year in the peer-review process of ASABE journals. The recipients will be recognized at an award ceremony during the 2011 ASABE Annual International Meeting at Louisvile, Kentucky in August.