Dean Neilson – Winter 2014-2015

This is my penultimate column for the Webb News since I will be retiring at the end of this academic year. Denise and I bought a house on the Northern Neck of Virginia where the crab pots and fishing rods are waiting. While we will miss all the excitement of the Webb campus, we look forward to a new adventure.

We have set another modern record for the number of freshmen admitted with the 28 members of the Class of 2018, 2 women and 26 men, including one from Turkey. The classroom is crowded but we are managing. I don’t look forward to grading 28 sets of freshmen lines plans and have attempted to subcontract part of the load to Dean Emeritus Compton, but ever since I first suggested this, his telephone must have gone out of order because no one answers when I call. Strange.

The annual Freshman Epic Competition on Family Weekend went well with this year’s challenge being the construction of a sailboat. Even though the winds were slight, one boat was not only able to sail, but actually sail upwind. The teams can be congratulated on their innovative approach to the design problem and their decorative touches if not the final result.

We have 89 students on campus this semester, including one visiting student finishing his year here under the Brazilian Scientific Mobility Program (BSM P). Leo Tinoco, who has been with us since the beginning of the spring 2014 semester, leaves in December. We hit the jackpot with Leo as our first student under the BSM P. His academic preparation at the University of São Paulo is excellent and his personality open and friendly. We can only hope to have additional students from this program just like him. Leo was required to perform an internship between his two academic semesters and since he had not had the same opportunity as Webb students for more hands-on experience, he requested we help find something that would allow him to work with the shipbuilding process. ABS came through with a position in the Philadelphia Survey Office, and Leo spent the summer with experienced surveyors inspecting the construction of product tankers at the Aker Philadelphia Shipyard. It was a great experience for him.

We also have three sophomores attending the University of Southampton this fall. As far as the students are concerned, making the crossing on the Queen Mary 2 has now been institutionalized. While I’m not sure that is the case, with the help of Dr. Stephen Payne we were once again able to arrange passage for them. We heard of their adventures regularly for the first month or so of their trip, but as happens when the children leave home, communications have been a bit sparse as they become more involved in activities in England. I’m sure they will return safe and sound.

The juniors have selected three courses for their elective this semester. Professor and Assistant Dean Richard Harris is teaching Creative Writing, and it has gone very well. Once again Ms. Carol Bentel is teaching Modern Architecture, and Dr. Bob Brier is teaching Egyptology. The latter two courses have become regular choices of the students, and we welcome not only the vast knowledge of Ms. Bentel and Dr. Brier, but the practical viewpoint they bring to the classroom.

The twenty seniors and our BSM P student have selected thirteen different thesis topics this year. They cover a broad range and are making good use of some of the new laboratory facilities. We are very grateful to those supporting these projects with material, funding, and mentorship. With the help of Kerri Allegretta, Director of Media Relations and Communications, the seniors created a brochure summarizing their thesis topics. The contents of the brochure are on pages 6 and 7 of this publication. It was available at the Annual SNAME meetings, and the Admissions Department provides it to those prospective students who come to tour Webb. We are running low but plan on printing more and having them available at Homecoming in the spring. This should become an annual publication.

As of this writing, the juniors and seniors have been very successful in their search for work term positions. Similarly, we have more than enough spots for our freshmen in the shipyards, and we are very grateful for the response from the industry for all of the help we receive. The freshmen will be disbursed from Wisconsin to Louisiana and from Maine to California. Finding ships for the sophomores has become more of a challenge, but several of our “old reliable” lines continue to support Webb, and I’m sure we will find spots for all of the students.

Soccer win

The soccer team takes a victory lap with the Webb flag after winning the game against Vaughn College, 5-4

And while not an academic matter, I have to mention that WE WON A SOCCER GAME THIS YEAR! An NCAA investigation of our recruiting practices is certain and sanctions in the form of a reduced number of athletic scholarships are sure to follow.

Keep warm over the winter, and I hope to see you at Homecoming.