New grant to advance entrepreneurial mindset in UW-Platteville engineers

Written by Alison Parkins on Mon, 10/11/2021 - 06:21 |
KEEN @ UW-Platteville

After being accepted as a member in the Kern Entrepreneurial Engineering Network (KEEN) last summer, the University of Wisconsin-Platteville was recently awarded a $290,000 grant to further its work in the Network and take the next step in advancing entrepreneurial-minded learning for engineers. The grant is being used to initiate a faculty development program to advance the entrepreneurial mindset in curricula over the next two years.

KEEN is a partnership of more than 50 colleges and universities across the United States, committed to instilling an entrepreneurial mindset in 100% of their undergraduate engineering students. The concept encourages engineering students to think more broadly about the impact of their work.

"It's really teaching engineers to think more like an entrepreneur, to seek opportunities to create value. We want them to think of the broader impacts of decisions they are making and not just the technical aspects." – Dr. Jessica Fick

“When people hear ‘entrepreneurial-minded,’ they tend to think of entrepreneurs,” explained Dr. Jessica Fick, assistant dean for special projects and associate professor of mechanical engineering. “But, it’s really teaching engineers to think more like an entrepreneur, to seek opportunities to create value. We want them to think of the broader impacts of decisions they are making and not just the technical aspects. It’s not typical for engineering courses to discuss tariffs or social implications or even diversity and inclusion. We really want to challenge our engineers to think about all the things that will affect a product or process they are designing.”

A cohort of 10 faculty and staff members are taking part in the inaugural faculty development program, which kicked off this semester. The cohort will delve into one topic per month that can add context to engineering disciplines. Topics range from social and political considerations to sustainability and marketing. The program ends with a collaborative change project that will further the goal of reaching every engineering student with entrepreneurial-minded learning.

“Once the faculty go through the program they will gain expertise in the entrepreneurial mindset, and then we will have new champions of the KEEN initiative,” said Fick. 

Known as a student-centered, teaching-focused institution, UW-Platteville is uniquely qualified to be a strong partner in KEEN, said Fick. 

“We’re one of the few public institutions in the KEEN network, and on top of that, we’re a teaching institution. So, we’re bringing in a new perspective,” said Fick. “Plus, KEEN aligns with our mission to excel at teaching. We’re doing a lot of amazing things in the classroom already, and this will just continue to push us to be the best in engineering education.”

The faculty participating in the first leadership cohort include Dr. Mehdi Roopaei, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering; Dr. Nima Ghafoorianfar, associate professor of mechanical engineering; Dr. Scott Melin, assistant professor of mechanical engineering; Lea Ljumanovic, lecturer of mechanical engineering, Dr. Dianne McMullin, associate professor of industrial engineering; Dr. Gana Natarajan, assistant professor of industrial engineering; Dr. Danny Xiao, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering; Dr. Yan Shi, associate professor of software engineering; Dr. Bo Yu, assistant professor of mechanical engineering; and Dr. Jorge Camacho, associate professor of mechanical engineering. 

For more information about KEEN, visit engineeringunleashed.com/