What was the greatest engineering achievement of the twentieth century? What will be the greatest this century? How will engineering education need to change to face its new challenges?
These were just some of the questions addressed by Dr. Thomas Magnanti, Institute Professor and Dean of Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in his talk entitled “Engineering Our Future” held on September 22, 2005 in CCNY’s Steinman Hall auditorium. During his hour long multi-media presentation before over one hundred City College engineering faculty, students and alumni, Dean Magnanti “summarized some emerging themes and ways the modern research university will remain at the forefront of engineering education, research and practice.”
The speaker “has devoted much of his professional career to education that combines engineering and management, and to teaching and research in applied and theoretical aspects of large-scale optimization. He has received numerous educational and research awards and currently serves on several corporate and university boards. As Dean, he has focused on educational innovation, industrial and international partnerships, technical-based entrepreneurship, diversity, and innovation in emerging domains …. He is past president of the Operations Research Society of America and the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences, and is President the International Federation of Operations Research Societies. He is a former Editor-in-Chief of the journal Operations Research…. (and) is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.”
As Dean Magnanti illustrated, engineering has changed the very fabric of our society in the past with major accomplishments such as electrification and computerization. Today we are seeing increasingly rapid changes in the white-hot fields of “bioengineering, tiny technologies, information engineering and engineering systems.”
Engineering education is also changing due to developments such as globalization, the rise of small invention-driven firms, increased student interest in other fields such as law and finance, greater competition among schools and flat government and industry funding. Traditional boundaries between technical disciplines are blurring, calls are increasing for education reform, and engineering school enrollments in the United States are growing at a much lower rate than in India and China.
Dr. Magnanti concluded his talk by presenting an engineering education model for the future which embraces:
- New, yet broader, knowledge bases (such as bio/nano/info/macro technologies).
- Engineering as an innovation leader.
- Breaks from the traditional semester based structure with initiatives such as open university courseware that is freely available to independent learners as well as regular students.
- New pedagogies that provide more collaborative and learn-by-doing approaches.
As the Dean phrased it, we are entering the era of the “Global University!”