Visits generate new ideas from stakeholders

From alumni mentoring students to adding more videos on the school’s website, parents and alumni last week offered Dean Philippe Fauchet some ideas to ponder.

Philippe Fauchet

“I was in Boston to share my vision for the school, but the opportunity to hear what’s on their minds is invaluable. Many of their questions and comments I had not heard before,” said Fauchet, who took the time to meet one-on-one with a number of alumni and parents of current students while attending the 2012 Materials Research Society fall meeting.

“Parents told me students want more contacts with alumni so the students can learn what the professional life of an engineer is like or undertand how useful an engineering degree is in other fields. Alumni can serve as role models for all students, and perhaps more so for those students who have no family members in engineering or who belong to under-represented groups in engineering,” he said.

Fauchet began a formal process of meeting with faculty, staff, students and alumni soon after he was named dean of the Vanderbilt School of Engineering on July 1. One of his major missions is to improve the school’s sense of community with all its stakeholders.

“I intend to do a lot more of these visits in the next few months as I go out of Nashville to meet the larger Vanderbilt community,” he said.

Parents are interested in a liberal arts education for their children but want them to stay on course with their engineering major without adding credit hours, he said. “They also are very interested in study abroad opportunities because many of their sons and daughters have taken years of a foreign language in high school. As someone who was raised in Europe where people speak many languages, I believe being fluent in more than English is important. We are living in a global world and understanding customs, cultures, and languages can determine the extent of one’s success.”

“The good news is that about 19% of the class of 2012 studied abroad, which is much higher than the national average for engineers,” he said. “And, we’re committed to helping engineers study abroad while staying on track for their degree,” he said.

Everyone said they hope engineering students see the dean speak about his mission and vision for the school and hear his enthusiasm. “I certainly welcome any opportunity to speak to our students,” said Fauchet, who was the featured speaker at last month’s Engineering Day, an event for current students organized by the student-led Engineering Council.

Civil engineering alumnae Janice Greenberg, the founder of The Inform Group, a Massachusetts-based technical and marketing communications firm, has ALSO served as president of the school’s Engineering Alumni Council. Greenberg met with Dean Fauchet in Boston and she supported the idea of creating more videos to tell the school’s significant stories.

“Parents suggested a ‘vision’ story be filmed by our students and posted on YouTube. I like that idea,” Fauchet said.