In an increasingly competitive career landscape, engineering graduates are finding that it takes more than just meeting the standard curriculum requirements to prepare for the future.
Experiences like international internships, working on the solar car team, doing research or starting a business can be the difference-maker in helping them stand out to employers. And ongoing education through professional programs and certificates is required to stay competitive in the job market.
So how does Michigan Engineering ensure that every learner, both on- and off-campus, benefits from one of the finest educational experiences in the world? This is the question the Michigan Engineering 2020 strategic plan set out to tackle.
“We started with the question of not how, but should and, if so, why. What is the imperative for innovation in this space?” said Alec Gallimore, the Robert J. Vlasic Dean of Engineering, Richard F. and Eleanor A. Towner Professor of Engineering, and Arthur F. Thurnau Professor of Aerospace Engineering. “With that approach, we’ve been very mission-driven in every decision we’ve made. And we’ve been very intentional about ensuring that, when we do something, it will be first-rate – with the block M.”
College leaders aim to ensure the preeminence of a Michigan Engineering education by empowering faculty to innovate teaching methods and tools, online and professional education, and experiential learning – and by helping students navigate the beyond-the-classroom experiences that are already available at Michigan.
“We want all students to find ways of becoming immersed in experiential learning,” said Joanna Millunchick, associate dean for undergraduate education, an Arthur F. Thurnau Professor and a professor of materials science and engineering who is co-lead of the College’s Education Pillar. “But rather than falling into something, we want them to be intentional and practice their purpose – and to be able to articulate the story of their accomplishments to potential employers.”
As part of an initiative called Immersed, the process will make it easier for students to navigate the myriad of options, and for faculty to bolster experiential learning as part of for-credit classes.
Another area of innovation includes new funding opportunities for faculty to propose novel approaches to teaching that could have broad impact across the College. Millunchick believes faculty could introduce ideas beyond the current imagination if given the support.
“Technology is getting so advanced that it’s not feasible for any one person to be an expert on everything,” said Millunchick. “We want this to be a fertile ground so people with ideas can innovate more quickly.”
Grants for innovation in online graduate education are also available through the College, and have already funded new ideas, such as a MasterTrack Certificate in Construction Management and Engineering developed by civil and environmental engineering faculty. This type of innovation is what the College hopes to enable through Nexus, a new College-wide unit for online and professional education designed to serve a diverse, global community of learners.
“We aim to support faculty innovation,” explained Mary-Ann Mycek, associate dean for graduate and professional education, a professor of biomedical engineering and co-lead of the Education Pillar. “Nexus will be ‘always on’ – on campus, online, and on location – and will provide faculty with instructional design support to develop new online programs and provide platforms for lifelong learning.”
Courses that integrate digital technologies, such as augmented and virtual reality, will enhance the learning experience.
“We will build on what Michigan Engineering currently offers by opening the door wider for people around the world to benefit from the depth and breadth of the educational resources available,” said Mycek.
To Gallimore, the Education Pillar is beginning to achieve results that will set the course of the College for years to come. But it is only the beginning. For example, the possibilities for delivery of the Michigan Engineering education around the globe are limitless.
“Michigan Engineering 2020 is just the start,” he said. “We’re already beginning to consider, ‘What will happen in the five years after that?’”