CU-Boulder Professor Receives $500,000 Educational Prize From National Academy Of Engineering

Published: Feb. 23, 2004

Frank Barnes, distinguished professor of electrical engineering at the University of Colorado at Boulder, on Feb. 24 will receive the National Academy of Engineering's top educational honor, a $500,000 award recognizing innovation in engineering and technology education.

The Bernard M. Gordon Prize honors Barnes "for pioneering an Interdisciplinary Telecommunications Program that produces leaders who bridge engineering, social science and public policy" and will be presented at a dinner in Washington, D.C.

The Interdisciplinary Telecommunications Program, which Barnes co-founded with George Codding Jr. of political science in 1971, was revolutionary in its approach to graduate education and has been a model for the development of other telecommunications programs nationwide. It was built on the concept that engineers of the future would need more than a mastery of technical details -- they also would need an appreciation of the policy and business aspects of industry.

"Key to its success is the program's ability to attract people from a wide variety of backgrounds," said William Wulf, president of the National Academy of Engineering. "That diversity has produced graduates with a valuable range of perspectives on engineering, policy and economics."

Over the years, the Interdisciplinary Telecommunications Program has attracted students from 68 countries around the world with backgrounds ranging from economics to international affairs to engineering. Currently, about 200 students from 18 countries are enrolled in telecommunications courses.

The program has opened up the opportunity for nonengineering graduates to learn things vital to participation in the telecommunications industry and, at the same time, broadened one part of engineering education to include aspects of policy and law.

"I believe that our program has made many successful careers possible," said Barnes. "Hundreds of graduates from this program have gone on to do important things."

Among those who have earned master's degrees from the program are Sharon Black, author of "Telecommunications Law in the Internet Age," and David Weiss, former CEO of StorageTek.

Barnes has long been a leader at CU-Boulder, serving as interim dean, distinguished professor, chair of the electrical and computer engineering department for 17 years, and a founder of electrical engineering departments at other CU campuses.

Barnes has been a CU-Boulder faculty member since 1959 and was named a distinguished professor by the CU Board of Regents in 1997. He was elected to the National Academy of Engineering in 2001.

The Gordon Prize was established in 2001 as a biennial prize recognizing new modalities and experiments in education that develop effective engineering leaders. Recognizing the potential to spur a revolution in engineering education, the National Academy last year announced that the prize would be awarded annually.

The National Academy of Engineering is an independent, nonprofit institution, whose members consist of the nation's premier engineers, elected by their peers for their seminal contributions to engineering. As such, the academy provides leadership and guidance to the government on the application of engineering resources to social, economic and security problems.

For additional information about the Gordon Prize visit or contact Leila Rao, NAE awards administrator, at (202) 334-1237, or Randy Atkins, NAE media relations officer at (202) 334-1508.