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Message from Dean Paul S. Peercy

Engineering Beyond Boundaries:
Education for a rapidly changing world ...

Dean Paul S. Peercy

ONE CAN ARGUE THAT SCIENCE achieved progress through the relentless pursuit of disassembly over the past 150 years. To understand the incredibly complex questions that underlie the biological and physical sciences, scientists meticulously divided the questions into their component parts.

The rapid increase in scientific disciplines over the last century provided us with an opportunity to make insurmountable challenges more approachable. This specialization has served the world extremely well, giving us insight into the building blocks of physical matter and of living things, as well as enabling tremendous advances in human health and
quality of life.

Faculty Profiles

Innovative faculty are taking the academic experience in new directions. We profile four of them here:

Wendy Crone


Michael Plesha


Jeffrey Russell


Giri Venkataramanan


The next 150 years, on the other hand, might be defined by how well we reassemble that knowledge in an integrated way. Leading thinkers in the public and private sector recognize that the next big discoveries, and the next big solutions, will likely be found at the intersections of the powerful disciplines we have constructed.

The rapidly developing Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery (WID), located directly behind me in this photo, will establish UW- Madison as a world leader in taking integrated approaches to science and medicine. When completed in spring 2011, WID not only will support a wide range of interdisciplinary research, but it also will bridge the gap between the public and private sectors to quickly bring essential health advances to patients.

This shift toward more integrated thinking and problem solving has major implications for how we educate future engineers at the UW-Madison College of Engineering. Building on the past five years of progress from the Vision 2010 Initiative, we have put in place a long-term educational transformation called “Engineering Beyond Boundaries.” This initiative will encourage faculty and staff to rethink our academic culture to address important shifts, including:

  • Going beyond traditional engineering boundaries.

  • Going beyond the boundaries of the state and nation to prepare students to work and succeed in many different countries, cultures and languages.

  • Going beyond the boundaries of the college itself, with programs supporting greater connections across disciplines such as biology, medicine, business and the humanities.

  • Going beyond the boundaries of the classroom, with new technology and multi-media strategies that allow faculty to expand their educational approaches.

  • Going beyond the boundaries of conventional thinking about engineering education and recasting our content and approaches for a rapidly changing world.

This annual report includes a number of accounts of innovative faculty taking the academic experience in new directions. For example, one professor created animations as powerful tools to help students visualize challenging concepts in statics. Another professor developed a certificate program to help engineering students build meaningful bridges into the arts, humanities and social sciences at UW-Madison.

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The concept of transcending boundaries is at the core of UW-Madison values. The century-old Wisconsin Idea holds that the university’s benefits should extend to the citizens of the state, nation and beyond. In conversations with students, I frequently mention that engineers will play a role in solving every major challenge facing society. Yet these complex problems will not be solved exclusively by engineers. In order to truly make a difference, engineers will need to contribute to culturally and intellectually diverse teams.

Through “Engineering Beyond Boundaries,” we hope to make that diversity come to life for our students.

University of Wisconsin-Madison College of Engineering University of Wisconsin-Madison