Education, Just Another Product
I WANT TO compliment O. Hayden Griffin, Jr. on "Our
Students, Ourselves" (Prism, May-June). I have tried hard to
find ways to break down the ‘us' vs. ‘them' mentality
in the classroom, and look forward to trying some of your suggestions
during the next academic year.
I also wanted to follow up on your comment that students
want less than their money's worth. I am not sure this is true.
I think that part of the problem is that many students do not see
themselves as buying an education. I think most students see themselves
as buying a degree—buying a line on the résumé.
From this point of view, as long as they can graduate on time, they
get the same "product" regardless of how often they attend
I hope that by finding ways to rekindle the love of
learning in students, and by making clear to them that our main goal
is to help them learn, we can continue to break down the ‘us' vs. ‘them' mentality.
Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering
Ohio Northern University
Preparing Tomorrow's Engineers
IENJOYED READING Kerry Hannon's cover story, "The Graduate," (Prism,
May-June) on the struggle to produce well-rounded engineering graduates,
and I applaud the calls for more attention to communication skills.
However, I'd like to challenge the notion that business and
entrepreneurship provide the best vehicle for "rounding out" a
degree in engineering.
This world needs engineers who will be responsible professionals,
aware of the impact of their work on others, and engaged citizens,
bringing their knowledge to bear on improving the quality of life
in local and global communities. For this to happen, engineering
programs must incorporate studies in the humanities and social sciences,
and expose students to problems involving human need and social values.
By integrating a social awareness of engineering into our technical
programs, we can prepare "technological humanists" with
not only the means to shape the future but, more important, the wisdom
to do so responsibly.
Associate Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering
Worcester Polytechnic Institute
I READ WITH interest Kerry Hannon's article "The Graduate." Several
years ago Auburn University's Samuel Ginn College of Engineering
recognized the need to help our engineering students develop their "soft
skills." Previous experiences taught us that cross-functional
teaming, leadership, and communication skills could not be developed
in a single course. Together, Auburn's engineering and business
colleges created a minor in Business-Engineering-Technology (B-E-T)
for rising engineering and business juniors. The 16-semester credit
hour, six-course B-E-T program includes formal academic coursework
leading to a minor as well as informal instruction. Engineering and
business students attend classes jointly taught by engineering and
business faculty, work in cross-functional teams, and solve open-ended
problems that have both business and engineering dimensions. The
program admits equal numbers of business and engineering majors.
Rising juniors, who must have a minimum 3.0 GPA (4.0 maximum), apply
for admission in the spring. Only 20 students from each major are
selected per year. For most engineering students, the minor requires
that they take extra courses. This select minor is proving to be
very effective in developing the cross-functional teaming, leadership,
and communication skills that employers value.
More information about Auburn's B-E-T program is found at www.eng.auburn.edu/BET/.
James O. Bryant, Jr.
Associate Dean of Engineering for Cross Disciplinary Studies
I AGREE THAT engineering curricula must recognize the importance
of soft, nontechnical subjects. I taught junior and senior chemical
engineering courses for more than 11 years, after having spent 40
years in industry and consulting. I hired young engineers over that
time and I found that there were three major areas where their education
was lacking: The young engineer could not sit down and write a cogent
report, stand before a group to make an oral report, and did not
know how to function as part of a group. My efforts were directed
toward dealing with these shortfalls. Returning students have confirmed
the correctness of my concerns.
The article does not speak strongly enough to the requirement that
an engineer be concerned with protecting the safety, health, property,
and welfare of the public. I have been active in NCEES as well as
the Massachusetts Board of Registration for Professional Engineers
and Professional Land Surveyors and I believe that ASEE and ABET
ought to recognize the importance of the licensing process. I see
no other practical way to protect the public from ill-prepared engineers.
I would hope that this realization would begin to permeate the
thinking that develops as engineering education evolves.
H.W. Flood, P.E.
COMMUNICATION SKILLS, working on teams, and application of knowledge
are some of the more difficult abilities for engineering undergraduates
to obtain. One tried-and-true method that you did not mention in
your article is the field of cooperative education. At Georgia Tech,
we are fortunate in that both our president, Wayne Clough, and our
dean of engineering, Don Giddens, were co-op students as undergraduates
here. Thus, they understand the value added to the students' education
by participation in real-world experiences with employers while working
Georgia Tech places an emphasis on various types of "outside
of the classroom" experiences. Whether it be in co-op, internships,
study/work abroad, undergraduate research, or another method, there
is great value in obtaining this experience. However, it cannot stop
These programs must go beyond a "good experience." They
must be more experiential in nature, allowing for accountability
on the part of the student and giving them a mechanism to reflect
upon that experience and to internalize what was learned in the process.
Together, we are all working hard to make the undergraduate experience
at Georgia Tech one that will produce alumni who have "the
ability to move with dexterity as team members and leaders" not
only in their respective fields but in society as a whole.
Thomas M. Akins
Executive Director, Division of Professional Practice
Georgia Institute of Technology