» Go to news main

Alum honours engineering professor Corinne MacDonald's impact as a role model and mentor through gift

Posted by Mark Campbell on May 30, 2024 in News
Damian Daniels (BEng'10)
Damian Daniels (BEng'10)

Damian Daniels (BEng’10) says Dalhousie industrial engineering professor Dr. Corinne MacDonald had a huge impact on his life and career. By giving to a scholarship created in her name, he hopes to do the same for a new generation of women in engineering. 

Damian Daniels knows the difference that one individual can make in your life. For him, it was Dalhousie industrial design professor Dr. Corinne MacDonald.

As the first woman to earn a PhD from the department and the first to lead it, Dr. MacDonald was a pioneer and role model.

In 2007, Daniels was an engineering student on track to study materials engineering because he loved design and how things were made. Then, he took an engineering economics class with Dr. MacDonald that changed everything.

“She thought I would be a good fit for industrial engineering based on the questions I asked and my approach to the work,” says Daniels, a senior engineer with Nova Scotia Power. “I trusted her advice and I think it was the best I’ve ever done as a student.”

Dr. MacDonald also shared with the class the impacts of underrepresentation in the workplace based on her employment experience – something to which Daniels, a Black man, could relate.

A mentor and a friend

Daniels says he was able to excel as a student thanks in part to Dr. MacDonald, who taught several of the industrial engineering courses he took. He appreciated the way she always looked out for him and other students in her classes. “She was more than a professor,” Daniels explains. “She was a mentor and friend. She was able to relate everything she taught us to her work as an industrial engineer, so it felt more like shared experience than a lecture. But more than that, she really cared about her students. Her classes felt like a little family.”

Much like family, Daniels says the news that Dr. MacDonald passed away in 2022 hit him hard. It also inspired him. Motivated by the difference she made for him and his classmates, he began looking for a way to honour her impact. Then, he discovered that the Department of Industrial Engineering had established the Corinne MacDonald Scholarship for Women in Industrial Engineering. Having received financial supports during his time at Dal, Daniels knew that this scholarship could make a huge difference for a new generation of students.

“The support I received meant I could focus more on school than on work,” Daniels says. “This scholarship seemed to be a good way to support both the department and her work because it could help others the way she did.”

A man wearing a grey suit and white shirt poses with his arm around a woman wearing glasses and a black and white shirtDamian Daniels (BEng'10) and Dr. Corrinne MacDonald

Honouring an advocate for change

Daniels specifically liked that the department created the scholarship to recognize and build on Dr. MacDonald’s legacy of advocacy and support for women in the profession.

“She often talked about what it was like communicating with frontline staff as probably the only woman in her department,” Daniels says. “She said it was important to have the skills to navigate that, but it was even more important to be a voice for change in the industry.”

Daniels says he would love to see the scholarship be a force for change just as Dr. MacDonald was. In particular, he hopes it will open doors for women from underrepresented communities to not just enter the field, but also succeed. “It’s not just that a scholarship helps with the financial commitments of a program like this,” he says. “It’s also that getting a scholarship can boost your confidence and make you feel like you belong, which is something that Dr. MacDonald promoted as well.”

By endorsing those same values through his gift, Daniels recognizes that he has become an advocate for change just as his mentor was. “I think the intersection of general representation, engineering, and education is important, whether it’s me as a Black man or for a woman in engineering,” he says. “Being more inclusive makes for better engineers, not to mention better universities and a better industry.”

Daniels thinks Dr. MacDonald would be delighted to know that her colleagues and her former students have created a scholarship in her name. Ultimately, he believes it will have the same impact for a new generation of industrial engineering students as its namesake had for him.

“Where I am now is solely because of her,” he says. “I’m extremely grateful to her.”