PRISM Magazine On-Line  - November 1999
Driving the New Economy

Frank L. Huband

Frank L. Huband Our nation has been enjoying an extraordinarily strong economy for a number of years. What is behind our success? This month's cover story, "Engineers and the New Economy," argues that the high-technology sector, which has been very effective in creating economic value, deserves much of the credit. The engineering field is a key component of this sector, and engineering educators are providing the training for many of those responsible for our high-flying economy.

We are obviously preparing our graduates well, but in this era in which outcomes-based assessment is becoming mandatory, can we measure how well a particular engineering curriculum is preparing its graduates to participate in creating economic value? Does that curriculum prepare its graduates for a lifetime career, or only for a few decades of success? Engineering salaries tend to peak long before the age of retirement, so we need to do a better job of maintaining engineers' viability for as long as they choose to work.

The article "Distance Education, the UK Way" highlights one approach to the enhancement of engineering education with lifelong learning. As technology continues to advance, engineering education needs to adapt courses, and the venues in which these courses are offered, to suit different needs and learning styles. In the story, we point to the use of distance education as a way to maintain knowledge and upgrade the skills that are essential to continued productivity.

Also in this issue is a profile of Shirley Ann Jackson, the new president of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. This remarkable educator comes with a string of "firsts" attached to her name, including the first African-American woman to head any national science and engineering research university. Her newest challenge is to get RPI, which has been plagued by recent trouble, back on track.

You can count on ASEE to keep you informed on continuing/lifelong education and advancements in engineering. And in the coming months, we will be rolling out our new lifelong learning Web site, providing a searchable database of continuing engineering education courses.

I look forward to hearing your opinions and perspectives.


Frank L. Huband
Executive Director and Publisher