Page top
Skip navigation

Next story

Cover of the Winter 2009 issue


VOL. 35, NO. 2






Dear future engineers and parents,

Donald C. Woolston

Donald C. Woolston (large image)

Mahatma Gandhi once said, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”

Although Gandhi spoke those words decades ago, they still very much hold true for our prospective, current and former engineering students, who come to campus seeking not only a great education, but also opportunities to make a difference in the world.

You can find and create those opportunities here. For more than 100 years, faculty, staff and students at UW-Madison have applied their knowledge and skills to influence and improve people’s lives both in Wisconsin and around the world. This “Wisconsin Idea” is rooted in a rich tradition of outreach that to this day exemplifies the university commitment to public service. (To learn more, please visit

Both individually and in groups, UW-Madison engineering students work to affect positive changes in our world. They join the Peace Corps. They engineer sustainable environmental solutions for entire communities in places like El Salvador, Africa and Thailand. They apply key engineering research to jobs in industry, government and national laboratories. They volunteer and teach in K-12 classrooms. They explore cultures far different from their own, and they live and learn in places across the globe. They build homes for Habitat for Humanity. They develop assistive technologies for people with disabilities. They mentor future scientists—and their own peers.

These peer-mentoring activities enable UW-Madison students to make valuable contributions right here at home. More than 800 of our students participate in College of Engineering peer-led learning activities each year. My office, Engineering General Resources, administers one of these supplemental instruction programs, which supports students enrolled in such “gateway” courses as statics, dynamics, and introductory physics.

Because of their outstanding high school academic records, students often feel like they have to tackle challenging courses without help. For them, taking advantage of supplemental instruction, tutoring and peer-led learning is a last resort, rather than their first course of action.

However, on the College of Engineering campus—and in universities around the country—peer-led learning is becoming the norm. In industry, teams brainstorm ideas and solve problems; on campus, engineering students participate in study groups—and ultimately understand difficult concepts and develop and share problem-solving strategies with their classmates.

I can’t think of a better way to begin to change the world.


Don Woolston, Assistant Dean
Engineering General Resources

Page topEnd of page