Preserve, Persevere, and Progress: The State of the College 2006
Dean, College of Engineering and Mathematical Sciences
Today we join together to assess our progress, to reaffirm our collective purpose, and to map our future course so that our great college and university may continue to be a beacon to those who believe in the infinite potential of the human mind to improve the lives of their fellow human beings.
The success of this mission requires that we be diligent stewards, that we embrace the serious responsibility of educating our students to meet the needs of a rapidly changing and increasingly complex world.
For educators of engineering and the mathematical sciences, this means recognizing that we can no longer afford to retreat into the warm and comforting hobbit-hole of specialization at the cost of a broader understanding of culture, language, business, ethics, politics, history, and art.
If we do retreat, we do a great disservice to our students and, ultimately, to humanity itself.
Will the engineers, mathematicians, and computer scientists of the future design for the needs and wants of human beings, or in spite of them?
Will they analyze how their design will affect and build on that which has come before? Will they account not simply for what may exist five or ten years down the road, but 100, 500, or 1,000 years into the future?
Will they have the ability to deftly navigate the rugged intellectual terrain of a rapidly changing, multicultural world, and effectively communicate how they intend to improve upon it? Or will they hide behind the curtain of isolationism fostered by an English-speaking, Americanized, western culture?
Will they be the leaders of corporations, think tanks, universities, and government agencies, or will they be the implementers of policies created by others?
The real question is: Will our graduates realize the true power of engineering thought?
The answer to this question is by no means certain. Fortunately, the people in this room today have the power built upon a foundation of wisdom, knowledge, and dedication to our art to help our students realize their highest potential. Ultimately, that will be the measure of our success.
We in the College of Engineering and Mathematical Sciences are fortunate to be part of a great university that is undergoing a metamorphosis. For our College, this transformation also provides vast opportunities that will help us to realize our objective of becoming a great center of learning and discovery.
Indeed, our vision statement, passed unanimously last year by the faculty, eloquently captures this sentiment.
To realize our vision and position the College to hold a unique and highly respected position in the arenas of undergraduate education and graduate education and research, we have developed overarching strategies:
- Undergraduate education: We will focus on a "unity of knowledge," pioneered in the 19th century by University of Vermont President James Marsh, and expose our students to various modes of reasoning and ways of knowing, with an emphasis on preparing tomorrow's leaders.
- Graduate education and research: We will focus on complex systems analysis and engineering approaches (essentially a research analog to the unity of knowledge) to help us solve society's most pressing problems.
See also: State of the College: 2007