Aiming high

Engineering school casts wide net for ideas

By Steven Schultz

Princeton NJ -- The School of Engineering and Applied Science is inviting people from across the University community and beyond to participate in a series of workshops as part of its strategic planning initiative.

The workshops began Sept. 18 with an all-day session devoted to issues of undergraduate education and will continue on Oct. 13 when the topic will be graduate education. Nine more sessions through Dec. 15 will cover subjects ranging from specific research fields such as nanotechnology to the relation of engineering to other academic areas such as the humanities and life sciences. See <Web page> for a detailed listing.

"We are trying to identify key opportunities where we can build on the strengths that are already here at Princeton and take ourselves to a level of world leadership in specific areas," said Maria Klawe, who began the strategic planning process after becoming dean of the school in January. "If we do this, we will be a significantly more visible engineering school with significantly more impact."

A first critical step is gathering a wide range of input, said Klawe. Each workshop is expected to involve more than 60 faculty, staff, students, alumni and representatives of industry. Anyone with an interest in any of the workshop areas is encouraged to register at the online address above or by calling Jane Maggard at 258-6850.

The workshops are not just for people with interests in specialized areas of engineering, Klawe said. The strategic planning process is meant to benefit the entire engineering school and the University as a whole, she said. "Our premise is that the only way we can succeed in making this major improvement in our impact and visibility is doing so in ways that benefit the entire campus. So we are hoping that there will be subjects that excite people in the Woodrow Wilson School, the architecture school, mathematics or history or any discipline."

To lead the overall strategic planning process, Klawe created a committee consisting of associate deans Kyle Vanderlick and Sanjeev Kulkarni and assistant dean Jane Maggard as well as faculty and staff members, students, administrators from other areas of the University, trustees, deans from other universities, alumni and leaders from major technology companies. Many Princeton alumni have supported the planning initiative, including Donald Dixon '69 and Howard Cox Jr. '64, who underwrote it.

In the first workshop, more than 80 participants worked in subgroups, each devoted to topics in undergraduate education, such as curriculum, diversity, admissions and career development. "It was great," said Klawe. "People were so engaged we just could not get them to stop the sessions. We'd get to the end of the time period and it was time to start distilling the main points and we had to physically drag people away. And that's what we really want; we want the interaction."

The day after each workshop the executive committee that organized it will meet to produce a draft summary report. "That's not the final report. In some sense, it's the beginning," she said, noting that electronic bulletin boards and other means will be used to allow continuing feedback and refinement.

A major challenge, said Klawe, will be to work in a logical way from the free-flowing ideas of the workshop to a coherent strategic plan. "We want people who participated in the workshop to see how their ideas made a difference," she said. She expects the strategic planning committee to produce a draft report by the end of February 2004 and, after further input, have a completed strategic plan by the end of May 2004.


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