The University of Massachusetts Amherst
University of Massachusetts Amherst

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MIE Seminar Series: "Cultural and Curricular Changes in Engineering Education"


Friday, October 4, 2019 - 12:00pm


Professor Jessica Townsend, Olin College of Engineering


Gunness Student Center, Marcus Hall


Fifteen years have passed since the National Academy of Engineering predicted the kind of world an engineer of 2020 might find themselves in, and what mindsets and skillsets engineers would need to make positive impact. As a result, many institutions employed a variety of change models to create a more student-centered learning approach to engineering education. At Olin College, we’ve collaborated with a number of institutions going through cultural and curricular change, including large state universities, small and medium size schools, and international institutions. This talk will feature stories and examples of how these programs and institutions navigate change and the inevitable stories of success and failure. In addition, there are a growing set of communities of engagement focused on supporting institutions through curricular change, and some nascent efforts to transform higher education in a more bold way. We’ll explore these future trends for engineering education and higher education and consider what the landscape might look like 15 years from now.

Dr. Jessica Townsend is a Professor of Mechanical Engineering and the Interim Academic Vice President for External Engagement at Olin College. Since joining the Olin College faculty in 2004, Dr. Townsend has worked as a facilitator and consultant with universities and professional organizations looking to improve engineering student engagement. She currently oversees institutional-level strategy for Olin’s external educational change mission and has contributed to the development of innovative pedagogies, courses, and curricula at Olin College. Her technical area of interest is experimental thermal-fluids and she worked for many years on the development and characterization of nanofluids (colloidal suspensions of nanoparticles), mainly for thermal management applications. Dr. Townsend has industry experience in both air-breathing propulsion, as a gas turbine performance engineer at Hamilton Sundstrand Power Systems, and in rocket propulsion, as a visiting engineer at Blue Origin, a commercial spaceflight company based in Seattle, WA.