PRISM Magazine Online - May-June 2000
ASEE Today
BACK TO THE FUTURE

By John Weese

At the start of Texas A&M's spring break, there is an exodus of eager young minds as students seek to slake their thirst for knowledge at South Padre Island or other fountains of truth. Your students are probably smitten with similar overwhelming intellectual pursuits, perhaps using oracles on the ski slopes. For faculty members, spring break is a clarion call that the end of the semester is almost at hand; soon we'll launch the first graduates of the 21st century on their careers.

Compare the changes seen by engineers in the class of 1900 during their half century of practice with those who graduated in 1950 and are still working. The 50-year ratio of tool-kit knowledge of the 2000 engineer to the 1950 engineer is much greater than the 50-year ratio for those between 1950 and 1900. It is sobering to think of the implications this has for collegiate engineering education and what it implies for continuing education. ASEE will be in the midst of determining the most effective ways to transform curriculum that will prepare graduates to meet their challenges and to develop increasingly effective continuing education programs that will make it possible for engineers to keep abreast of developments and advance their careers.

" We are lucky to live in such fast-changing, interesting times when the demand for our graduates is high, and there is an abundance of good work for us."

ASEE is posting rapid progress in the development of a searchable, online database for continuing engineering education courses. Log on to www.learnon.organd check it out. Although ASEE is still in the early stages, many organizations have already agreed to list their continuing education courses on this Web site. The organizations include a wide range of universities and an impressive selection of engineering technical societies. When the site is fully developed, engineers will be able to search this database for courses by topic area, course provider, location, mode of offering, and price.

The start of spring break always sends another clarion signal; it's time to prepare for the ASEE Annual Conference. The Ides of March were this year's deadline for manuscripts of the papers we'll be presenting in St. Louis. It was also the propitious time to register for the Annual Conference and take advantage of the early-bird rates. Even if you've missed the early registration, there's still time to make your reservations, so don't delay further!

This year's theme, Engineering Education beyond the Millennium, is most appropriate. Furthermore the local arrangements committee, together with the ASEE staff, have set up an impressive program for us in America's heartland at St. Louis, the Gateway to the West.

A powerhouse pair of main plenary speakers has been scheduled. Dr. Robert H. Waterston, head of genetics at the Washington University School of Medicine and director of its Genome Sequencing Center, is deeply involved in the international Human Genome Project. His address should be most timely because a first-pass delineation of the human sequence is expected this spring. Consequently, we'll have the chance to hear some of the latest information. Appearing in the same session is Dr. Paul C. Lauterbur, head of the medical information sciences department of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign's College of Medicine. Known worldwide for proposing and developing nuclear magnetic resonance imaging, he is the founding president of the Society of Magnetic Resonance in Medicine.

In keeping with ASEE's goal of being at the forefront of technology, paper submissions and the review processes for the 2000 Annual Conference were done electronically. Was it hiccup-free? Not quite. Did the dire predictions of drastic decreases in the number of papers accepted turn out to be true? No, in fact there were more accepted this year than in 1999. Will the process work better in 2001? Of course!

When I began my term as ASEE's president, I asked Frank Huband, our executive director, if it would be prudent to list my normal e-mail address in the President's Message. He said I'd be perfectly safe unless ASEE became embroiled in controversy. I hate to admit it, but Frank was right. To be sure, there's a great deal of e-mail traffic with, and among, the ASEE officers and staff, but relatively little comes in from the grass roots. An encouraging trend, however, is the amount of e-mail traffic from members to the editors of Prism.

We are lucky to live in such fast changing, interesting times when the demand for our graduates is high, and there is an abundance of good work for us. ASEE has had a good year, and there is every indication that this year's ASEE Annual Conference will be very successful. With meetings of the ASEE Board of Directors on June 18 and 22, there are two ready and waiting opportunities to feed your thoughts to us; I'm only a click away at J-Weese@tamu.edu. I'm looking forward to seeing you in St. Louis!


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