What skills will American engineers need in a very rapidly changing world? How many engineers are needed and where will they be located? More specifically, what are our responsibilities in providing an education that shapes careers that may last more than 40 years after our students leave the commencement stage?
These questions drive curriculum changes. Workforce issues, globalization and new technologies indicate a need for more interdisciplinary skill sets. Today, effective system-level designs require us to communicate across disciplines. And a commitment to basic research is absolutely essential if America is to keep its leadership position in engineering innovation.
At the Vanderbilt University School of Engineering, research competitiveness and engineering education are not mutually exclusive. Students take fundamental courses, and they take classes that are design-centered and application-oriented. They work alone. They work in teams. They work in labs with some extraordinary faculty who are doing cutting-edge research funded by the National Science Foundation, Department of Defense, Department of Energy, National Institute of Health and others, often with collaborators at notable universities here and abroad.
From my perspective as dean of a highly competitive, research-intensive engineering school, we spend much energy and resources solidifying our research reputation. But we also dedicate a great deal of energy and resources to innovative education initiatives. We now have extensive study abroad programs, unique first-year experiences, service-learning courses, an integrated senior design course, summer undergraduate research programs and more.
We deliver an excellent engineering education to some of the best and brightest students in the country.
Can We Do More?
This is a serious question with many implications. We have an obligation to examine if and when it is appropriate to do more, but not merely for the sake of implementing something new. If we ask, “Is it responsible? Intentional? Sustainable?” then it becomes implementation with a purpose.
We must engage in continuous examination of the effectiveness of existing opportunities and support an ongoing search for better ways of delivering a rich and rigorous engineering education.
In this endeavor, we partner with fellow institutions, corporate leaders, government, other Vanderbilt schools and initiatives, and of course, our alumni. These are exciting and pivotal times for engineers, educators and the Vanderbilt University School of Engineering. In this premiere issue of Vanderbilt Engineering, the successor to both our engineering newsletter Engineering Vanderbilt and annual Research Report, we share some of the excitement of our research and educational initiatives. We will continue to explore the stories, efforts and opportunities of the school and its people in future issues of Vanderbilt Engineering, and look forward to your participation and feedback.