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Impact - Fall 2005

Dean's sabbatical paves way for future themes, visions and programs

After 13 years at the helm of UDM’s College of Engineering & Science, a three-month summer sabbatical allowed Dean Leo E. Hanifin to step back from administrative duties to explore “trends and emerging developments in our country, in the organizations that hire our graduates, and throughout the world” with the intent of defining potential new directions and opportunities for the College.

He has presented five themes for future emphasis in the College: 

Proposed course to focus on community needs

As part of its role in fostering community development, UDM is exploring an interdisciplinary community-based design studio to address critical needs of the people of Detroit. As proposed, the first-term junior-year course would involve student team members from Architecture, Business, Digital Media and Engineering who would work on the identified project.

Architectural students would provide aesthetic design; Business students would do market analysis and develop the business plan; Digital Media students would produce promotional materials/graphics/web pages; and Engineering students would design mechanical, electrical, civil and manufacturing functions appropriate for the task.

Additionally, according to the plan, the Psychology team would assist in the understanding of the organizational behavior and team dynamics. The Health Professions team might provide design projects to meet the needs of patients and health care providers. 

The tentative development schedule calls for course design this fall; project explorations, definition of faculty roles/assignments, and promotion and course enrollment in Spring 2006; project definition in Summer 2006; and the pilot next fall.

According to E&S Dean Leo Hanifin, “This type of experience will develop the capabilities of students to collaborate across disciplines and to be responsive to the needs of real customers in our community . . . important competencies for graduates in any profession.”

To arrive at these themes, Hanifin looked at areas including emerging technologies (nanotechnology, fuel cells, bioinformatics, environmental engineering, genetics, etc.), American innovation, globalization and new educational models. He also held “futuring” discussions with leaders at Ford, IBM and other companies; visited benchmark universities such as Rensselaer Polytechnic in New York and Lehigh in Pennsylvania; met with National Science Foundation leaders; attended several major conferences; and conducted a number of retreats with faculty.

The themes and related initiatives are intended to stimulate dialogue among all constituents and partners of the College, including faculty, alumni and corporate and government partners.

“These themes could involve initiatives ranging from modifying current programs to creating entirely new programs, centers and partnerships that reflect new ways to achieve the goals and objectives of the College,” Hanifin explains. “They are a menu to explore where and how we might employ the resources of the College, our partners and sponsors to achieve our greatest potential for good in the world.”

Hanifin’s sabbatical report, Engineering and Science Education in the 21st Century, also suggests collaborative processes and next steps to select changes and initiatives for the College. In addition to considering the needs of students, employers and our nation, decisions for change must consider resources available, “scalability” and risks, he says.

“That being said, I am convinced that a decision to change nothing may have the greatest risk of all options,” he continues. “To be effective in the future requires bold initiatives and programs that respond to the changing world and that differentiate UDM’s E&S programs and graduates from those of competitive institutions.”

Meetings with faculty and external partners on different theme areas are in process.