Whether you like college rankings or not, it’s hard to deny their influence on how institutions of higher education are perceived by students, parents, faculty, alumni, donors, and the media. Unfortunately the most prominent source for rankings overlooks a very important factor. That’s why I penned an op-ed for Inside Higher Ed making the case that U.S. News & World Report should include diversity as part of its ranking methodology. Please take a few minutes to read it.
Defining Tomorrow, the Strategic Plan of the College of Engineering, contains a vision statement that asserts that the College “… is globally recognized as the preferred institution … for all faculty who seek the best possible environment and opportunity for interdisciplinary and impactful research.” Also, a key objective outlined in the plan is to “sustain and enhance excellence in scholarship and research.” In so doing, the plan illuminates and reinforces the fact that identifying and recruiting world-class scholars to join our faculty is one of the most important functions of the dean’s office.
The future of Georgia Tech rests on assembling a distinguished faculty because it will be those individuals who help shape and define us in the decades to come. Recognizing our ability to establish and maintain world leadership in addressing some of the most challenging problems facing our society today requires us to seek opportunities to be impactful in both the educational and research arenas. These world-class scholars will help strengthen our efforts to attract and retain an excellent student body.
While there are a great many technological challenges facing society, our sights are set in the near term on defining the future in three key areas.
Energy: Few industries influence the quality and prosperity of human life as much as energy. Of the 14 Grand Challenges for Engineering espoused by the National Academy of Engineering, arguably six either directly or indirectly deal with energy-related issues. Energy research at Georgia Tech spans a continuum from generation to storage to conversion to transmission and distribution to efficiency. In partnership with the Strategic Energy Institute, the College of Engineering will seek to build upon existing strength and seek interdisciplinary contributors to address these important issues in the upcoming hiring cycle.
Autonomy: Autonomy is worldwide trend affecting nearly every sector of commerce, including manufacturing, transportation, and consumer goods, just to name a few. In collaboration with the Institute for Robotics and Intelligent Machines, the College of Engineering will seek to bolster its already impressive portfolio of expertise in various aspects of robotics, machine learning, and interaction with autonomous systems.
Data-enabled Design and Manufacturing: Data science (or “big data”) is an area of tremendous potential for which the ultimate applications and outcomes remain largely untapped. In our next hiring cycle, the College of Engineering will endeavor to identify individuals capable of using data science to advance such disparate areas as systems design, materials & manufacturing, the “Internet of Things,” and life sciences.
Here at Georgia Tech, we conduct research that addresses the challenges facing society and improves the quality of life. This requires hiring faculty members with expertise that spans disciplines, has a high probability of measurable impact, and enhances our national stature and visibility. If we are successful in our faculty search in the areas we have identified, I believe we will do exactly that. Wish us luck.
In early May we heard the popular refrain of “I got out,” as more than 1,700 engineering students received their degrees. I consider it a privilege to shake their hands as they cross the stage during the ceremonies since, as an alumnus myself, I know the trials and tribulations of graduating from Georgia Tech. Among those turning their tassels this year were Leo Benatar, an 86-year-old who has waited 59 years to receive his master’s degree in industrial engineering; Tiffany Davis, an aerospace engineer whose letter to President Obama led to him speaking at Tech; and Nick Selby, the mechanical engineer whose inspiring “You Can Do That” speech to incoming freshmen was a viral sensation.
These are just a few of the remarkable engineering students who received their diplomas. Some will continue their studies here and elsewhere as they seek higher degrees, and others will join the workforce. Even Leo Benatar (below) says he plans to continue working.
If you ask these new graduates what about Georgia Tech helped them achieve their goals, you will find some common themes. The reputation of Tech, the quality of instruction, the ability to intern or co-op, undergraduate research opportunities, and student design competitions are mentioned frequently. However, what really struck me this year was that so many students said that Tech gave them confidence, exposed them to challenges, taught them to teach themselves, and showed them out of failure how to succeed. These are the real lessons learned on campus and the lessons that will serve them every day as they leave North Avenue. Congrats to our newly minted engineers and to all of our alumni – you are each a helluva engineer!