UW-Platteville announces initiative to expand industry engagement in higher education

Written by Gaile Schwickrath on |
Mechanical engineering students

With sights set on creating enduring change in higher education, seven universities – University of Wisconsin-Platteville, Boston College, Drexel University, Rowan University, University of St. Thomas, University of North Alabama and Clarkson University – are launching 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.

Entrepreneurially-minded learning, an approach championed by the Kern Entrepreneurial Engineering Network (KEEN), 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. 

“Infusing entrepreneurially minded learning in our curriculum means that our graduates will be able to think like an entrepreneur as they take on the challenges of their future work,” commented Dr. Jessica P.M. Fick, associate professor of mechanical engineering and co-PI for the grant. “Future engineers are taught more than just technical skills as this approach fosters curiosity, making connections and creating value.”

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. 

“A common refrain from our current advisory board members is that they wish they could do more to help out our engineering programs,” said Dr. Philip Parker, PE, acting dean of the UW-Platteville College of Engineering, Mathematics and Science and PI for the grant.  “As such, advisory boards are often an untapped resource for engineering programs.”

UW-Platteville has been driving entrepreneurial mindset curriculum change across its seven engineering programs since becoming a KEEN partner in 2018. 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, UW-Platteville has promoted this work through faculty development initiatives, including monthly Teaching with Impact symposia where faculty share tools, tips and techniques with each other. 

“Industry is a direct customer of an engineering curriculum, giving them a vested interest in the formation of engineers who can identify opportunities, make connections and create significant value from their efforts,” commented Dr. Jodi Prosise, chair of the Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering and co-PI for the grant. “Using strategies that empower industry advisory boards to make truly meaningful contributions to engineering education has the potential to make a transformational impact on the field.”

To become an industry partner to UW-Platteville, contact Dr. Philip Parker at parkerp@uwplatt.edu.  For more information about KEEN Engineering Unleashed, including downloadable resources, visit engineeringunleashed.com