Addressing the 3C’s at Carnegie Mellon University

It’s time to see engineering with fresh eyes.  Carnegie Mellon University’s Dean of Engineering James H. Garrett talks about helping Americans understand why we need a diverse community of engineers to tackle society’s problems.

Explain how the CMU College of Engineering’s approach to engineering education prepares students.

Demonstrating that breaking down boundaries is a disruptive force that often leads to better, more creative and more effective solutions is an important factor in both engaging a student’s interest in engineering and equipping them with the best frameworks and tools to solve our future’s most complex problems.

 How we can increase diversity in the engineering talent pipeline?

As academic leaders and practitioners, we need to be thinking of ways to improve a student’s awareness of the wonders of engineering, and create viable opportunities to act on their interests.

If we make it clear to young people that engineering is a very creative profession, that there are many ways in which to practice engineering and have an impact on society- and, that while they do have to make investments in math and science while they are in middle and high school- it is those investments that help engineers enjoy a very creative and fulfilling career.

More than ever, students become particularly engaged when engineering involves societal outcomes of great import.  Two examples are Phil LeDuc and Jeremy Michalek.  Phil explores the overlap between biological systems and design to confront disease and address hunger.  Jeremy is forging the future of electric vehicles through his synthesis of energy and environmental policy, green design, and systems optimization.

So, we as a community concerned about the “E” in STEM also need to focus on the need to see engineering with fresh eyes and convey the need for a diverse community of engineers with many backgrounds, perspectives, and disciplinary interests as the best way to tackle societal challenges.

How can gatherings like NEF dialogues impact the nation’s future?

It is critical for engineers across the spectrum to reach out to a broader base of individuals in order to move forward in a collective and effective manner.  As the Dean of Carnegie Mellon University’s College of Engineering, I am looking forward to continuing to work with the Council on Competitiveness, Lockheed Martin, and all those who have contributed to the NEF regional dialogues.