Administrating the Engineering Future


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Frederick Berry, vice president of academics for the Milwaukee School of Engineering, has much to think about—from the inside out. Being an administrator in a college of engineering means both improving the technology and the technique and background of teachers. He takes both very seriously.

“Right now the word on my mind is laboratory,” he says. “Relevant laboratories and classrooms are important all over the country for engineering. Instead of a stage model, how can we engage in pushing boundaries of a classroom and labs in synchronicity? We’re combining the lab and lecture to make a studio model so students can do ‘hands on, minds on’ for all learners. Some are hands on and some are into theory and to shortchange either is one of the biggest mistakes in engineering instruction today.”

Real-World Experience

Another major administrative challenge to Berry is not enough instructors with real-world experience. “Two-thirds of our professors have significant industry experience and that was by design,” he says. Berry says that is important because the school should not just focus on teaching innovation but should show how the instruction can be used in finding a job. “We have to look at producing something and selling something,” he says. “What will our market be next? There’s big competition for jobs from other countries and we have to think about what makes students employable.”

Fred Berry, vice president of the Milwaukee School of Engineering (left), and Robert Bishop, Opus Dean of Engineering at Marquette University (right). Images: Milwaukee School of Engineering and Marquette University

Robert Bishop, Opus Dean of Engineering at Marquette University, hopes the trend won’t be overly forced. “I don’t think administrators should push too heavily for it because experience in the private sector doesn’t mean you’re a better teacher,” Bishop says. “But I do want to look for teachers who follow educational trends better. There is a shift—and has to be—toward making the learning more applied and less about theory.”

Berry says the background of the administrator is slowly changing as well. “Fifteen years ago, all the administrators and all presidents of most colleges were academics. In the last data, I saw it’s 10% of presidents that aren’t, that are coming from a business background. I think it’s great to have a mix, pushing for an administrator to be a manager, that makes an effective curriculum but efficient, [who] gets things done in a timely manner and with minimum cost.”

Connecting with High Schools

But Berry also believes part of making the college makeup better is administrators becoming more closely connected with high schools. “Many college students aren’t ready because they only did the minimum amount of math or science, yet they were interested in engineering,” he says. “We need to help high schools communicate what’s required to really achieve. If they come to us better prepared, then we can prepare them on our end even better. We want engineering students to graduate feeling they can compete with anyone. It’s up to administrators to think of every possible way for students to make the most of their time.”

Eric Butterman is an independent writer.

“I think it’s great to have a mix, pushing for an administrator to be a manager that makes an effective curriculum but efficient—gets things done in a timely manner and with minimum cost.”

Robert Bishop, Opus Dean of Engineering, Marquette University

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August 2012

by Eric Butterman, ASME.org