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2006–2007 highlights

Message from Dean Paul S. Peercy

WE ARE DOING everything in our power to help every student succeed in engineering. We’re not alone. Across the country, educators are rethinking engineering education. The United States simply must do more—not only to attract students to engineering, but also to retain them until they graduate.

For too long, students who stepped up to the challenge of an engineering education faced something akin to boot camp. If they could navigate obstacles and climb the walls of calculus, physics and chemistry, they could proceed to advanced challenges and engineering experiences. Help climbing those walls was available, but those students had to know where to find it. And as a result, many talented students chose a different path. Frustrated and disillusioned, they left the pursuit of an engineering degree for other opportunities.

We as a country—and we as a college—no longer can afford that “sink-or-swim” approach. The days of using such introductory courses as physics as “weed-out” courses are gone. It’s not that calculus, physics and chemistry courses are any less demanding. On the contrary, we expect our students to have strong fundamental understanding of these foundation courses.

What’s different today is the way in which we’re delivering that education.

I send a letter to all freshman pre-engineering students. I welcome them to campus and let them know that we want them to succeed—and that we will provide the help they might need at no additional cost. The students still have to climb the walls of calculus, physics and chemistry—but now they do it in teams, along with an arsenal of tutors who act as their personal trainers.

We remodeled an underused, yet highly traveled, area on the main floor of our Engineering Hall and built an expansive, airy cafe. This very visible area has lots of community and group-study space and a dedicated, flexible room for supplemental instruction. In just a few short years, we changed our student culture from a “needs tutoring” attitude to a “wants to be prepared” mindset.

What’s more, students need not wait to try their hands at engineering. They take fundamental courses in math and science along with design-centered and application-oriented offerings such as Introduction to Society's Engineering Grand Challenges. We have 53 registered engineering student organizations that offer experiences ranging from international automotive competitions to student chapters of engineering professional societies. In the last year, more than 130 engineering students traveled abroad through our International Engineering Studies and Programs, our internship/co-op program, Engineers Without Borders student organization, the LeaderShape program, and the chemical engineering summer course.

Through these and other opportunities, we are preparing a new generation of engineers to use powerful modern tools to confront global issues in ways we could not imagine just a few short years ago.

While this report provides a snapshot of our college accomplishments throughout the last year, read it with an eye toward the future. We are moving forward—and the best is yet to come.

Paul S. Peercy, Dean

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