Fauchet joins nationwide pledge to White House to train next-gen engineers

Students will be prepared to address major global challenges of the 21stcentury

Vanderbilt University School of Engineering Dean Philippe Fauchet signed a letter of commitment presented to President Barack Obama at the White House Science Fair Monday, March 23, in which more than 120 U.S. engineering schools announced plans to educate a new generation of engineers expressly equipped to tackle some of the most pressing issues facing society in the 21st century.

These “Grand Challenges,” identified through initiatives such as the White House Strategy for American Innovation, the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) Grand Challenges for Engineering, and the United Nations Millennium Development Goals, include complex yet critical goals such as engineering better medicines, making solar energy cost-competitive with coal, securing cyberspace, and advancing personalized learning tools to deliver better education to more individuals.

Philippe Fauchet

“The Grand Challenges are important in advancing our global society, which is why my fellow engineering deans and I signed the letter of commitment to President Obama. Personally, I want every one of our graduates to make a difference in the world, regardless of their chosen career path. It is our job at the School of Engineering to create a highly productive and collegial environment and to provide the foundation so they can achieve this goal,” Fauchet said.

Each of the 122 signing schools has pledged to graduate a minimum of 20 students per year who have been specially prepared to lead the way in solving such large-scale problems, with the goal of training more than 20,000 formally recognized “Grand Challenge Engineers” over the next decade.

Vanderbilt University is acting on its plans to strengthen its innovation and entrepreneurial culture. Under construction is an Engineering and Science Building that will be one of the largest interdisciplinary buildings on campus. It is designed to be a home for faculty and students who are focused on trans-institutional teaching, research, and service. Central to this space will be an innovation center equipped with prototyping facilities where young entrepreneurs can act on their ideas.

Grand Challenge Engineers will be trained through special programs at each institution that integrate five educational elements: (1) a hands-on research or design project connected to the Grand Challenges; (2) real-world, interdisciplinary experiential learning with clients and mentors; (3) entrepreneurship and innovation experience; (4) global and cross-cultural perspectives; and (5) service-learning.

“The NAE’s Grand Challenges for Engineering are already inspiring more and more of our brightest young people to pursue careers that will have direct impacts on improving the quality of life for people across the globe,” said NAE President C.D. Mote Jr. “Imagine the impact of tens of thousands of additional creative minds focused on tackling society’s most vexing challenges. ‘Changing the world’ is not hyperbole in this case. With the right encouragement, they will do it and inspire others as well.”

More information on this initiative, including a copy of the letter of commitment, is available here. The initiative grew out of a 2014 workshop organized by the American Association of Engineering Societies, Epicenter, Engineers Without Borders USA, EPICS, and the NAE Grand Challenge Scholars Program.