Global Society Offers Challenges—and Learning Opportunities

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The college's new strategic plan, Engineering 2020: Vision for Excellence, has two key themes: Engineering for Global Society and Integrated and Discovery Learning.

This has been a watershed year for the college. In the fall, we wrapped up our strategic plan for the past five years and promptly rolled out a new plan to help guide our pursuits for the coming decade. The new plan is called Engineering 2020: Vision for Excellence. It is published, along with a final report on our accomplishments on the prior plan, here.

Engineering 2020 has two primary themes: Engineering for Global Society and Integrated and Discovery Learning. At first glance, it may appear these ideas are in tension. On the one hand, our world is becoming increasingly interconnected (see, for example, Thomas Friedman's The World is Flat) and engineers are being asked to play important roles in addressing global challenges. On the other hand, we seek to provide our students with personalized design and research experiences (integrated and discovery learning) to supplement fundamental classroom knowledge.

I believe these two paradigms are complementary. An increasingly global society requires that our graduates be prepared to work on large problems with team members from diverse backgrounds, using skills they acquire through integrated and discovery learning experiences.

The global challenges that we face are myriad: health, energy, environment, economy, security, communications, and more. One example where CU engineering students are making a difference is in satellite technology (see article on the DANDE project). Satellites are used in worldwide environmental sensing and for communications and security purposes, and our students are working outside of the classroom in interdisciplinary teams and with individual design responsibilities to design and build an Air Force-sponsored satellite.

Another example is water analysis and treatment (see article on the pharmaceuticals turning up in our drinking water). Although it has not (yet) generated as many headlines or price swings as oil, clean water is in increasing demand as the world population increases and economies develop. Our faculty and students are taking a lead role in helping to assure our water is safe, both for human consumption and for the health of the world's ecosystems.

This year's economic downturn also is being felt both globally and locally, corporately and personally. At CU-Boulder, we are experiencing reductions in revenues from both state appropriations and endowment income. At the same time, our college is planning for increased numbers of students, especially in our graduate programs, as an engineering education remains a high-value investment. Using our strategic plan as a guide, we pledge to make the very best use of limited resources to prepare our students to excel in an increasingly global society.

Robert H. Davis
Dean & Tisone Chair

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