Dean of Engineering to step down

Pearl Sullivan, Dept. of Mechanical & Mechatronics Engineering, Faculty of Engineering, University of Waterloo.
Portrait by Chris Hughes

Pearl Sullivan’s departure from deanship is only three months away.

As the first woman to be the head of UW’s Faculty of Engineering, her impact has been significant. 

Calling Dr. Sullivan, “a dynamic force,” in a statement issued Sept. 20, UW vice-president academic and provost James Rush announced that Dr. Sullivan will officially step down on Dec. 31 of this year. 

Professor Rick Cullham, who will be acting as interim dean until at least Jun. 30 of next year, will temporarily fill her role as head of the department.

If a permanent candidate has not been appointed by that date, Calhum will extend his term until one can be found. 

Although Dr. Sullivan will no longer serve as dean, she plans on continuing her career at the university.

According to Rush, she will remain at UW in order to “focus her energy on major initiatives for the university and the Faculty [of Engineering].”

Described by her students as an enthusiastic and helpful professor whose lectures capture their attention, Dr. Sullivan began her career at UW in 2004.

After two years as a professor of mechanical engineering, she served a six-year term as chair of the Mechanical and Mechatronics Engineering Department. 

Before entering her current role as Dean of Engineering in 2012, Dr. Sullivan was honoured with UW’s Outstanding Performance Award in 2008 and received the University of New Brunswick Faculty Merit Award for Excellence on two occasions.

In addition, she has contributed to Waterloo’s collaborative nanotechnology graduate program through her role as its founding director. 

Although UW has appointed eight deans before her, Dr. Sullivan is the first woman to fill the position and only the fourth female in the country to be the head of an engineering department. 

As Dr. Sullivan’s successor, Rick Culham is well equipped for the job.

Having previously taken on the position of acting dean in 2017, he is familiar with the responsibilities of the role.

Currently working as Associate Dean and administrator, Culham is a decorated member of the Engineering Faculty and is praised by Rush for his “knowledge, style, and collaborative approache to working.”


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