Prism Magazine September 2001




New School Year, New Look

For any of us who receives a quarterly report from TIAA on retirement funds or an investment report from the likes of Merrill Lynch or Fidelity, the words "economic slowdown" have taken on greater meaning this past year. Is the boom economy bust or is this just a downturn, and if so, how much further down do we go? If those with retirement funds are wondering and affected, so are those about to enter the job market. The article "An Economy in Turmoil" examines the effects of retrenchment in high tech and what it can mean to new engineering graduates. Can students still expect multiple offers and signing bonuses, and if so, or even if not, what are the options for the Class of 2001? The article also takes a look at how corporations like Cisco, Boeing, and Accenture are being creative with programs and packages to mitigate morale-killing layoffs.

With the economy shifting, together with the fact that today's economy is global, the question arises about the major role that foreign talent plays on U.S. campuses. In "Looking Inward for I.T. Workers," we examine the brain drain in developing countries and ask if the brain gain the U.S. has been experiencing is necessarily a good thing.

Our profile this month features Denice Denton, the first female dean of a major research university. Her mission at the University of Washington is to improve the engineering education experience, particularly for women and minorities. I think you will agree that she is a remarkable individual.

"A First-Class Partnership" is the second in a series about the launching of the Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering. The school's administrators have managed to be quite innovative in dealing with what could have been a major setback at the new engineering school. Olin opens not with the initial blueprint of a traditional freshman class of 100, but with a pioneering group of 30 students called "Olin partners," who will join faculty and administrators in helping to shape the higher education start-up. Even Olin was surprised at its success in attracting young men and women who could go anywhere. The average SAT score for Olin partners is 1450, and there are students who chose Olin over MIT and Harvard.

I don't think it's giving away too much if I say the last line of the article "Mission Almost Impossible" on the trials and triumphs of running an engineering department advises, "...if you are asked to be a department head, run. But if you're caught, make it a good life experience." This tell-it-like-it-is story concludes that the crucial post of department head or department chair may be the most rewarding, challenging-- and yet thankless-- job on American university campuses today.

This issue of Prism, I believe, provides a particularly provocative and thoughtful group of articles of current interest. I also call to your attention that Prism continues to undergo improvements in design and layout. The publications department's art staff and editors work hard to make your magazine ever more readable, attractive, and useful. I welcome your comments and suggestions.

Frank L. Huband

Executive Director and Publisher