President's Council on Jobs and Competitiveness to host deans of engineering, announce new partnership with ASEE

President Obama greets engineering deans and announces partnership with ASEE

With a strong endorsement from President Obama, ASEE and the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness have launched a partnership to measure, evaluate, and celebrate excellence in retention, graduation, and diversity in engineering education. The effort is intended to further the council’s goal of seeing at least a 10 percent increase in engineering graduates over the next decade. A Seal of Excellence will reward engineering colleges that produce more graduates and provide an incentive to others.

Obama greeted a roomful of engineering deans on February 8 with a pledge to “use the bully pulpit to emphasize how important your work is” and an assurance that “everyone in this administration is four-square behind you.” He spoke at a reception in the Old Executive Office Building for the Engineering Deans Council and leaders in the “10,000 engineers” initiative launched by the Jobs Council. Obama described the effort as one of figuring out “how to help you do more good work all across the country” and finding the best practices in engineering education. The reception came a day after release of a series of recommendations by the President’s Council of Advisers on Science and Technology to strengthen activity- and discovery-based undergraduate STEM instruction, particularly in the first two years of college.

“America has always been about innovation,” as well as scientific inquiry, the president said, and has “an incredible diversity of talent out there waiting to be tapped.” He said that “for every Steve Jobs we need 10,000 others.” His pledge of support  for the deans was underscored by the presence at the reception of Secretary of Energy Steven Chu, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, presidential science adviser John Holdren, National Science Foundation Director Subra Suresh, senior adviser Valerie Jarrett, and Alan Krueger, chairman of the President’s Council of Economic Advisers.

Intel CEO Paul Ottelini, who is leading the 10,000 engineers effort, said the private sector has raised $20 million toward the effort and promised to hire 7,000 first- and second-year engineering undergraduates as summer interns.

Gary May, engineering dean at Georgia Tech, who has played a key role in forging ASEE’s partnership with the Jobs Council, promised that the collaboration “will be groundbreaking in its depth and in its breadth.”

“We have to think differently as we showcase engineering to our nation’s young,” he said.

While Georgia Tech boasts an enviable 80 percent six-year graduation rate, May’s immediate predecessor as dean and current ASEE President, Don Giddens, pointed out that the national trend is much worse. An ASEE survey of public and private institutions showed a four-year engineers’ graduation rate of 22 percent at the public schools and a 45-percent rate at the private institutions. He said there is a recognition among ASEE members that “we do need to improve how faculty teach and how students learn.”

Energy Secretary Chu encouraged the deans to concentrate on research and education that will bolster a renaissance in manufacturing, and said funding from DOE can help. He cited “huge opportunities in power electronics” as well as high-strength steels, and predicted “a golden age in materials and materials manufacturing."

“We will help get faculty excited,” Chu said.