Faculty & Staff



Historically, engineering schools have taught engineering skills and there’s not really been an attempt to integrate management and leadership skills into the curriculum. That distinction has persisted within the industry: you’re either an engineer or a businessperson. The two don’t speak the same language or have the same view of a problem, and business decisions are made that are seen as bad from an engineering standpoint, and vice versa.

I see the Master of Engineering Leadership in Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering program as a way to bridge this gap: to create a curriculum where students understand the engineering decisions that have to be made to build the ship right, but also the business and management decisions that need to be made to build the right ship.

I’m very excited to be part of this program. I have over 30 years of experience working in industry, most of it in support of the US defence sector. My background in designing ships and helping ship-owners make the right technical decisions reflects some of the fundamental values of the MEL program.

My consulting website, www.mckesson.us, provides specific details about my career, which has focused primarily on unconventional ship design. This originally meant designing high-speed ships, but it also includes marine environmental issues.

Although I retired as a consultant to spend more time sailing, I taught a course at the University of New Orleans in 2008 and realized I loved teaching. So I went back to school and completed my PhD in 2013 on Innovation in Ship Design, and I’ve been at the University of British Columbia since 2014.

For me, the recurring theme throughout all my work is being customer-driven. It’s what I focused on in my career, and it’s what I continue to do through the MEL program in Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering — focusing on the needs of both industry and students.


Dr. Chris McKesson began his engineering career as a naval architect and quickly established a reputation as an innovator and problem-solver. This innate talent was matured through many years of ship design practice. Dr. McKesson’s greatest contributions have been on unconventional projects and programs. Whereas in early days “unconventional projects” in naval architecture tended to mean an emphasis on speed, in later years it included unconventional propulsion systems, or an unconventional emphasis on environmental stewardship, or an unconventional approach to the ontology of maritime systems. Dr. McKesson studied formal innovation methods that could be used in other fields of engineering and taught to other engineers; these methods are brought together in his 2013 PhD dissertation “Innovation in Ship Design.” Dr. McKesson brings together a passion for ship design with a fascination with the study of systematic engineering innovation.

Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering

Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering

Combine the engineering and physics of ship design with broad business and leadership training.

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