September 24, 2008

Share the Excitement

By Rajala, Sarah A

PRESIDENT'S LETTER We must clearly define our role in, and commitment to, broadening participation in engineering.

Thank you very much for giving me the opportunity to lead this great organization. I am humbled by the responsibility but very excited about the opportunities. My plans are to build upon the accomplishments of those who have gone before me to ensure that ASEE continues to define the future for engineering education.

The mission of ASEE to further education in engineering and engineering technology has never been more important. The world faces an array of complex problems that will require the talents and creativity of engineering and engineering technology professionals. It is also clear that important new skills will be demanded of the global engineer of the 21st century. In recent years, we have gathered significant new knowledge regarding how to enhance the learning opportunities for our students. Yet interest in engineering education continues to decline, especially among women and underrepresented minorities. We must find new ways to share the excitement and possibilities a career in engineering has to offer and the impact it can have on the quality of life. To help achieve this vision, there are three initiatives on which we will focus our attention: diversity, engineering education for the global economy and international activities.

To ensure the diversity of the workforce needed to meet these challenges, it is important for ASEE to clearly define its role in, and commitment to, broadening participation in engineering. It is my goal that we work together to articulate a new vision and plan for the future. We will build on the ongoing efforts of our minority and women's divisions and the work being done by our Corporate Members and Deans councils, and we will work collaboratively with our partner diversity-serving organizations. With the collective effort from all our members and divisions and our K-12 students and teachers through the ASEE K-12 center, we will make a difference.

On June 24, the National Academy of Engineering announced the publication of a new report, Changing the Conversation: Messages for Improving Public Understanding of Engineering. It presents research findings targeted at improving public understanding of engineering and the impact of messaging on the recruitment of students into engineering. The report recommends that the engineering community begin using four tested messages. As Don Giddens, NAE Report Committee chair, dean of engineering at Georgia Institute of Technology and chair of the ASEE Engineering Deans Council, states, "Improving public understanding of engineering will enable people to make more informed decisions about technology, encourage students to consider engineering careers and, ultimately, sustain the U.S. capacity for technological innovation." I encourage you to review the report at and determine how you might incorporate these messages in your own environment.

Two years ago at our annual conference, ASEE launched a major initiative focused on advancing the scholarship of engineering education. The Socratic dialogue we held during the plenary session set the stage for a year of broad-based discussions within our sections and zones on the role and importance of educational scholarship as a key means for transforming engineering education. These efforts provided the foundation for an NSF-funded project to create a blueprint for transforming engineering education through educational scholarship and to initiate substantive actions to advance the proposed recommendations. The co-chairs of the project, entitled "Engineering Education for the Global Economy," are Leah Jamieson, dean of engineering at Purdue University, and Jack Lohmann, vice provost at Georgia Institute of Technology. This year, six working groups will develop plans for converting these recommendations into actions. Public distribution of the draft report will begin in November with a summit for key stakeholders; broad dissemination will begin in early 2009. Of critical importance to the long-term success and impact of this project will be your review and input to the draft document and the initiation of actions that will allow us to produce engineers who will be tomorrow's leaders. Whether you originate an action or adopt a proven strategy, I encourage you to be a part of the process.

Over the past several years, ASEE's role and leadership in international activities have grown significantly. These activities provide ASEE and its membership the potential for expanding educational opportunities for our students and faculty, and for enhancing opportunities for collaboration on education and research initiatives. In October 2008, ASEE will hold the seventh annual Global Colloquium in Cape Town, South Africa. The focus of this workshop will be "Excellence and Growth in Engineering Education in Resource-constrained Environments." ASEE, in partnership with the International Federation of Engineering Education Societies (IFEES) and educational and industry leaders in India, has established the Indo/U.S. Collaboration for Engineering Education. This summer, a very successful six-week Indo-U.S. Faculty Leadership Institute was held in Mysore, with over 500 faculty learning more about both the pedagogy of engineering education and the latest advances in engineering science. ASEE also played a leadership role in the creation of and serves as the general secretariat for IFEES. IFEES was formed in 2006 with the intent of providing a global network of engineering education societies. To maximize the impact of our international activities and their benefit to our membership, we must articulate a clear vision to guide our decisions as we move forward.

Over the next year, my goal is to engage our membership and staff in developing a plan to ensure financial sustainability; defining strategies for meeting the needs of our members; and enhancing opportunities for broadening participation in engineering. In future columns, I will describe in more detail these initiatives and the impact each has on educating tomorrow's engineers.


Sarah A. Rajala is the president of ASEE and dean of the Bagley College of Engineering at Mississippi State University.


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