Engineering the future: perspective on the 3C’s in higher education

At NEF dialogues across the country, many engineering educators tell us cross-disciplinary studies and real-world experiences are keys to ensuring future engineers are well prepared. Putting those ideals into practice calls for creativity and commitment. Here, co-hosts of the Pittsburgh regional dialogue, Carnegie Mellon University’s Dean of Engineering James H. Garrett and the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering U.S. Steel Dean of Engineering Gerald D. Holder share their perspectives on the 3C’s and preparing the next generation.

How does your approach to engineering education prepare students?

JG: At Carnegie Mellon, we are known for our cross-disciplinary and highly collaborative culture, which comes from breaking down disciplinary barriers to produce the type of disruptive thinking that leads to more effective and creative solutions to complex problems.

GH: The Swanson School of Engineering recognizes engineering’s increasingly international dimensions and the need for graduates who are competitive in a global marketplace. Coursework and lectures are important, but our students find that leaving the classroom and engaging in real-world engineering makes them more competitive after graduation.

How we can increase diversity in the engineering talent pipeline?

JG: 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. We need to help them understand how exciting a career in engineering can be and fuel their dreams and aspirations with compelling stories such as self-driving cars, land, air and space robotics, medical devices and smart urban infrastructure.

How can NEF dialogues impact the nation’s future?

GH: NEF dialogues help not only continue the conversation in academia, government and industry, but also change it and challenge it. We need to continually address the need for a better, more diverse and greater skilled cohort of future engineers. Engineering plays a critical role in our daily lives and it is independent of international borders, so future engineers must be even more competitive than their counterparts.

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