Next Tuesday May 15 will be our first Innovation Nexus planning meeting! The “Innovation Nexus” is meant to be both a physical space for innovation, ideation and creation, and also a center to support innovative teaching, to bring together students, faculty, staff and external partners around interdisciplinary team-based projects. While it has engineering at its heart, it’s really meant to be something that serves the whole campus and acts as a catalyst for innovative thinking and teaching.
Some of the specific things we’re interested in developing:
– A Coding Studio, providing support and training for students of all majors who are interested in applying programming concepts to their projects.
– Support for team-based teaching, linked classes, “drop-in” modules that can be plugged into other classes, and co-curricular activities such as hackathons and design challenges that encourage cross-disciplinary collaboration.
– Training and support for faculty to bring design thinking and project-based learning into current classes.
– Development of a physical space (and accompanying equipment) to support ideation, prototyping, fabrication, testing and computation.
– Engagement with outside partners on real-world team-based projects, ideally spanning multiple semesters.
I really did not have any expectations going into this engineering accreditation workshop/symposium – well, maybe I expected it to be a little dry – but it was in fact quite inspiring and encouraging!
There was a great deal of talk about student-centered, project-based, real-world learning, the value of diversity and inclusivity, represented in everything from the President’s remarks to virtually every workshop I attended. The President of Olin College of Engineering, Rick Miller was a plenary speaker and went so far as to say that, done correctly, engineering could be the liberal arts of the 21st century – and that it is too dangerous to send engineering grads out in the world without a proper understanding of the humanities and social sciences. This is exactly in line with what we hope to build here at USF, so hearing this message from the official platform of engineering education accreditation was extremely encouraging.
There was also a lot of talk about basic strategies to attract and retain a highly diverse faculty and student body – specifically to attract more women and underrepresented minorities (in engineering). There was discussion about the need to reach all the way back to K-8 and improve the language around engineering to reflect the societal and environmental care that is the goal of so many engineering fields. Engineering is still regularly “masculinized” and made to sound aggressive to young people, when in fact most engineering problems cannot be solved without a balanced, humanistic approach. There was also discussion about presenting an overall theme to our program, even reflecting it in a clever title, in order to emphasize that engineering is to help people.
I also learned a lot of nuts and bolts about achieving accreditation, and found that the criteria and procedures seem very reasonable, with a lot of deference to our institutional values, and how we understand our program to be unique. Let me know in comments or feedback if you want to know more details of this.
All in all it was a very affirmative experience – I am confident we are on the right track!
Thanks so much for letting us spend so much of your precious meeting times! We hope you learned a couple things you hadn’t heard before, and feel that the communication gates are wide open. That was the real goal of these presentations.
Even though it may be impossible to design an academic program on campus to be fully inclusive of everyone, we do believe that with some open minds and folks coming forward, we can absolutely build something that benefits as much of the community as possible. All problem-solving, including this design problem of making an engineering program, is best served by incorporating diverse feedback, so please reach out in whatever format works for you.
Hana and Marisa McCarthy from the Provost’s office, Assessment and Accreditation support, will be going to the 2018 ABET symposium in San Diego next month! We hope to learn everything we can about how to make sure we are meeting the criteria for ABET accreditation, how to design proper assessment into the curriculum, and other critical items.
If you have any experience with professional accreditation programs and can think of specific questions we should be sure to ask, please let us know here in comments or feedback! Thank you!
ABET = Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology.
ABET accreditation is a professional accreditation for degree-granting programs in the engineering and technology fields. We should have this accreditation because some students going through our program will likely seek professional licensing later on.
There are many different program-specific accreditations we can pursue and they have different requirements for being approved by ABET. For example a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering has many more requirements of accreditation prescriptively spelled out than a “general” Bachelor of Science in Engineering, in terms of number of hours of certain coursework in the curriculum, qualifications of faculty, and equipment and facilities, to name a few of the categories.
There is ongoing discussion about how to best meet accreditation requirements given the capacity of our particular institution.
Please spread the news to folks & networks who value innovative engineering education, the strength of diverse perspective, and that engineering is problem solving FOR PEOPLE!
Thanks for checking out this blog! We’ll be periodically posting updates and storing information here concerning the development of the new Engineering program at USF. Feel free to comment on posts or use the feedback form (soon to be set up) for questions, suggestions, and to ask how to get involved. Contributors to this blog are primarily College of Arts & Sciences Associate Dean Chris Brooks, College of Arts & Sciences Resources and Planning Manager Katie Baum, and Engineering Program Interim Director Hana Böttger (Associate Prof in Dept of Art + Architecture).