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PRISM - American Society for Engineering Education - Logo DECEMBER 2005 - VOLUME 15, NUMBER 4
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The Challenge of Change
By Dave Woodall

ASEE's annual Engineering Research Council meeting is a must for faculty leadership.Illustration by Michael Klein

The rapid pace of change in engineering disciplines today is no surprise to faculty members. We know it well. In recent decades, we’ve witnessed the rise of desktop computing, the boom in Web-based commerce, the growth—and the deflation—of the “dot-com bubble” and the rise of nanotechnology centers and university research collaborations. We all know that it’s a challenge to keep up to date on changes in each discipline in terms of our own research and scholarship. But we can rise to that challenge by attending relevant professional society meetings and by reading the publications of our peers.

F aculty members who engage in leadership roles at colleges and universities have yet another challenge. In those positions, they represent a broad number of disciplines at their institutions, disciplines for which they may have only limited or cursory knowledge. The academic leadership in engineering and computing education needs to keep abreast of trends in scholarship and research as well as the availability of funding from federal agencies, especially high-priority initiatives. How do we establish priorities in our institutions and wisely use available seed funds to position our faculty and programs for success in a changing funding landscape?

More specifically, how do we stay on top of research, education and training support for national security, with its broad applications to our multiple disciplines? How do we bring back information about federal funding trends, issues affecting the admission of international students to our programs or possible limitations on the communication of our research findings due to federal requirements? Discussions on these topics take place annually at the Engineering Research Council (ERC) Workshop and Forum, this year to be held Feb. 26-28 in Arlington, Va.—a stone’s throw from the offices of a number of federal agencies.

As part of the forum, the ERC hosts an activity focusing on the future, looking for topics that will have an impact on us all in the coming years. In the late ’90s the council hosted its first summit. That meeting was an informal open discussion of a broad range of topics regarding university research. Outcomes included the development of a plan to focus future ERC forums on new technology areas critical to the continued development of research at our institutions. The topics identified in that planning activity were explored in subsequent years’ forums, including the “technologies” that would drive the growth of funded research in the new millennium: biotechnology, nanotechnology and information technology.

We encourage research directors, academic chairs, associate deans for research and deans of engineering, computing and science to participate in this meeting to meet their need to stay engaged and lead change within the research sphere of the educational enterprise.

www.asee.org/about/events/conferences/erc/2006

Dave Woodall is provost at the Oregon Institution of Technology. He is also vice chairman of ASEE’s Engineering Research Council.

 

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