AEO Working Definitions

The following are working definitions of Drexel's AEOs, which we expect to be updated and refined based on the work of the AEO Expert Teams.

Health Innovation

Health topic focused on innovation of new therapies, technologies and methods to improve care and support specific needs of individuals across the lifespan, locations and disease states. Leveraging Drexel’s clinical work, deep partnerships in life sciences and medicine, and locational expertise, as well as research and programming in connected areas, Health Innovation represents a significant set of avenues for differentiation.
  • Drexel’s unique ecosystem for translational research creates opportunities for partnerships and problem solving toward product, process and training development and tech transfer.
  • Drexel’s location in an emerging life sciences innovation district drives opportunity, particularly in anticipation of health-related partners moving to campus over the next 10 years.
  • Drexel’s industry partnerships are key differentiator from peer institutions.
  • Overall, the number of external clinical relationships not tied to a single hospital system is an asset; we can grow partnerships for clinical placements/grads and plant seeds in various health systems.

Health Equity and Wellness

Topics and expertise related to community health, prevention and mental wellness across programs, research, partnerships and clinical practice. This AEO is focused on improving outcomes, diversifying methods and expanding access across populations, especially local communities and underserved populations.  

  • Drexel has many defining assets across colleges, from the Urban Health Collaborative, Agewell Collaboratory and A.J. Drexel Autism Institute to strengths in Political Science, Psychiatry, Psychology, Mental Health Counseling, and Therapy programming and clinical practice, both traditional and non-traditional.
  • Applied research on structural drivers of access inequity and differential outcomes, accelerated via the pandemic, requires a transdisciplinary approach — giving Drexel, with broad expertise across many disciplines, a significant opportunity for differentiation.
  • We have the opportunity to demonstrate an antiracist approach and bring a structural racism lens to community access work and public health research.

Computing, AI and Cyber Security Frontiers

Topic combining strengths across AI, Information Science and Human/Machine Interaction, Cybersecurity and Data Science focused on the future of computing, its interactions with society, and the creation, transfer, security and dissemination of information. AI, Data Development and Computer Science underpins much of Drexel’s work and touches many disciplines, with expertise in areas such as Human-Centered Computing overlapping with Data Privacy and Human-Centered Design. 

  • Partners have significant interest in data privacy and security as a key future need and an important skillset for future employees. Student demand is increasing and projected to continue growing, offering an opportunity to build demand and enrollment.
  • The interplay between Computer Science and Information Science builds on collective strengths, which both differentiates Drexel from peers and will be key to making an impact across technology expertise.
  • Application of AI across fields is a potential space for competitive advantage given current and growing expertise, as well as lack of other local competitors. 

Sustainability and Climate Resilience

Topic focused on the conception, design and development of processes, materials and other advancements to support the health of the local and global environment, and resilience of the global climate.  

  • The Environmental Collaboratory is focused on creating paths for new research, partnerships and programming opportunities across schools/colleges.
  • A cross-cutting climate focus in Occupational and Environmental Health offers a pathway for new research and partnerships.
  • Materials Science expertise has significant research output and future potential for differentiation, such as in the development of new materials involved in alternative energy solutions. 
  • Political Science and Policy expertise also offers significant potential for differentiation. 

Urban Futures

Topic combining activities and scholarship related to city, regional and community development, design and innovation, and civic partnership and engagement. There is a strong potential for differentiation given Drexel’s commitment to and student interest in civic engagement and expertise in areas such as Sustainability, Civil Engineering, Architecture, Design and Public Policy. 

  • Drexel has the ability to leverage its geographic location and partnerships across Philadelphia and civic engagement ethos to further develop its position and impact as an urban applied research laboratory.
  • Existing applied research could be tied to curricula and make experiential learning the heart of our value proposition in addressing real-world problems.
  • Existing programs with “urban” tracks could be aligned to unlock deeper student interest and transdisciplinary connections. 

Human-Centered Design

Cross-discipline topic focused on the design of processes, systems and products developed to be best suited to the human user. Drexel’s deep Design expertise and strengths in Technology, Health and the Psychological and Sociological knowledge of human needs have the potential to create broad societal impacts.  

  • Westphal programs and design expertise are a widely recognized differentiator and key part of the Strategic Plan, generating demand from students.
  • Design expertise across exterior and interior spaces presents opportunities for broad, place-making differentiation and societal impact, particularly in combination with expertise in Health, Public Policy, Community Engagement and Technology.
  • With strong connections to the Organizational Innovation and Leadership Area of Excellence, Drexel’s expertise in Process and Organizational Design, in addition to Product Design, can be leveraged particularly where applications include research and training design. 

Entertainment and Culture

Topic combining strengths in the development and production of entertainment across disciplines and industries, including Music, Film, Television, Digital Media and Arts as well as management and business expertise in these and other related fields. In addition to these strengths and student interest in these areas, Drexel’s cultural partnerships and location in Philadelphia provide significant cultural assets to support future impact potential and grow enrollment.
  • Drexel is highly rated in several entertainment fields, offering a space to double-down in areas of current differentiation.
  • Connections across schools differentiate Drexel from pure arts-focused institutions. A nexus across Westphal, LeBow and the College of Computing and Informatics, for example, offers expertise in both the creation of entertainment and its management across industries.
  • Drexel’s multi-purpose expertise in Technology and Business presents applications to other industries, such as UX/UI and consumer connections.
  • Entertainment and media are of interest for students entering Drexel, driving demand for related programs and learning experiences.

Leadership, Learning and Organizational Innovation

This area represents the nexus of multiple strengths that support individual and organizational growth, learning and development. This includes program strengths in management across sectors; professional development efforts, especially in STEM fields; research related to leadership, motivation and organizational dynamics, including development of training programs in areas like DEI; and learning innovation efforts focused on impacting individual growth through greater understanding of how students learn. The combination of these strengths supports individuals from early education through late career and empowers organizations to support individual and team growth and impact.
  • Curricular and pedagogical innovation has significant potential to generate positive impacts across topic areas and schools for both traditional and non-traditional students. Connection of assets across University (e.g. Teaching & Learning Center, CASTLE, Online Learning Council, etc.) can drive greater impact internally and externally.
  • Partners, especially in technical fields, cite the need for leadership, management and innovation skillsets in future talent. Educational and curricular innovation has potential to generate positive impacts across topic areas and schools for both traditional and non-traditional students.
  • Drexel houses leadership initiatives such as ELATES and ELAM that are well-recognized in developing leadership talent and opportunities. There are additional crosspollination opportunities for leadership across organizations and entrepreneurship partners.
  • Business research on organizational optimization models could infuse curricula across Education, Engineering, Medicine, Public Policy and with external partners.
  • Drexel’s Urban Innovation and Policy expertise offers potential for impacts in civic leadership.

Advanced Materials and Manufacturing

Topic combining strengths across Materials Science, Biomedical Engineering, Device Development and Advanced Technology focused on the applications, development and use of materials across a broad set of disciplines. The Center for Functional Fabrics shows the potential of impacts that can be drawn out of this combined set of expertise, with broad set of potential impacts and applications available across Health and Technology.
  • Unique research assets in Materials Science could be connected with the Center for Functional Fabrics and potential Health applications.
  • A small, well-regarded undergraduate program could be further leveraged for elite reputation, increased demand from students and expanded research.
  • Materials development related to sustainable energy solutions is a key differentiator of current research and offers significant avenue for future impact.


Topic combining strengths across Neuroscience, including structures and function of the brain and neurological system. Strengths in Psychology, Psychiatry and Counseling could pair with those in Business Management and Organization Innovation and offer opportunities to expand impacts in strengths connected to function of the brain and mind.
  • Neuroscience and cognition strengths could connect to strengths in organizational innovation, learning and motivation to expand impact in research and programming.
  • Neuroscience and Brain/Spine research present area of significant strength, including the Drexel Spinal Cord Research Center.
  • The A.J. Drexel Autism Institute is a well-recognized center of research with ability to attract interest from students and potential staff.