Hopkins is Prepared for New Approaches to Educating Engineers By Ken Keatley Engineering educators must ensure that they offer programs that are relevant, attractive and progressive in the face of rapid technological, economic and societal changes. That in a nutshell is the overriding theme of "Engineering Education for a Changing World," a 29-page report issued recently by the Engineering Deans Council and Corporate Roundtable of the American Society for Engineering Education. Guiding the project was the ASEE's National Advisory Council, co-chaired by Hopkins trustee Norman R. Augustine, chairman and CEO of Martin Marietta Corp. Don P. Giddens, dean of the Whiting School of Engineering at Hopkins, participated in the project as a member of the Deans Council. "The deans recognize that the world has changed and will continue to do so, and we want to be not only responsive but also to help shape these changes," Dean Giddens said. According to the report, the end of the Cold War has led to a rapid redirection of federal, industrial and public priorities and resources toward civil concerns. To be successful in this dynamic environment, engineering graduates need more than first-rate technical skills. They must work in teams, communicate well and view their work from a systems approach within the context of political, international and economic considerations. Because of the university's reputation and emphasis on research and graduate education, and his own personal expertise in those areas, Dean Giddens was asked to serve on the Changing Focus of Research and Graduate Education task group. It and four other task groups met during a two-day workshop in Washington, D.C. in February; it was there that the report was debated and drafted. Among the high-lights of the report, in Dean Giddens' view, are a number of specific guidelines and suggestions. They include: that each engineering college should define its particular mission; that lifelong learning programs be underscored; and that real-life experiences and closer ties to industry be stressed. "The emphasis on multidisciplinary education and on developing communication and leadership skills is important," Dean Giddens said. "Engineering has a responsibility to help educate students in other fields, given the pervasiveness of technology in modern society." Dean Giddens is proud that the Whiting School has long recognized the importance of several key areas addressed in the report. For instance, the school stresses education for technological leadership, has a strong multidisciplinary slant to education and research, places emphasis on international experiences and, with its part-time master's programs, has been offering practice-oriented education for years. "The Whiting School is in the forefront of having already incorporated many of the report's recommendations," Dean Giddens added. He said that key areas that the school hopes to improve on are further integrating excellence in teaching into its faculty reward structure and becoming more active in industrially sponsored research and technology transfer. Nonetheless, Dean Giddens stressed that "each engineering program cannot be all things to all people. We at the Whiting School have recognized that our strong point is quality, not quantity."
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