Expanding Industry Engagement in Engineering Education

Students in lab coats working on engineering equipment

With sights set on creating enduring change in higher education, Drexel has joined with six other universities to launch a transformation of industry engagement in higher education. The intent is to help advisory boards move from a traditional advisory role to an active partnership in engineering education with a goal of helping institutions advance an entrepreneurial mindset in engineers.

The partner institutions — University of Wisconsin-Platteville, Boston College, Drexel, Rowan University, University of St. Thomas, University of North Alabama, and Clarkson University — are all members of the Kern Entrepreneurial Engineering Network (KEEN). KEEN champions entrepreneurial-minded learning, which equips engineers with skills to identify and make the most of opportunities, overcome challenges, improve skills, and learn from mistakes, which all together amplifies the impact of their technical skills.  Looking beyond design and building of systems and structures, entrepreneurially-minded engineers can create long-lasting value that contributes to positive societal change.

“Drexel Engineering students have a unique connection to industry through our co-op program, which exposes them to what professional engineers are working on right now,” says Jennie Atchison, PhD, assistant teaching professor of mechanical engineering and mechanics and a co-PI for the project. “Strengthening this connection and getting members of industry advisory boards more deeply involved in department and college activities will give both sides even more valuable perspective on how our students can impact the future of engineering.”

Jennifer Atchison
Jennie Atchison

With a $662,000 financial commitment from the Kern Family Foundation, the team will collaborate over three years to develop novel resources for leveraging industry advisory boards in ways that create pathways to connect industry into academic goals: a multimedia industrial partnership board “playbook,” a faculty development workshop, and a community of practice.

“When we were writing the proposal for this grant, we asked our board members some questions about why they joined and what they got out of it, and we heard over and over that most of them wanted more opportunity to engage directly with students,” Atchison says. “They just weren’t sure of how to accomplish that. This playbook and the other tools will help create that path.”

“Drexel Engineering students have a unique connection to industry through our co-op program, which exposes them to what professional engineers are working on right now.” 
Jennie Atchison

Drexel has been driving entrepreneurial mindset curriculum change across its engineering programs since becoming a KEEN partner in 2019. KEEN is a network of 50 colleges and universities across the United States with a shared mission to equip undergraduate engineering students with an entrepreneurial mindset so they can create personal, economic, and societal value through a lifetime of meaningful work. In addition to this new industry-focused initiative, Drexel has promoted this work through faculty development initiatives, including teaching workshops and interaction with KEEN’s “Engineering Unleashed” website, which collects best practice lesson plans and experiments to improve classroom education.

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