Engineering

Engineering Department receives curricular innovation award


 
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By: Brett Seekford

On March 23-25, representatives from James Madison University’s Engineering Department took part in Open 2017, a conference held in the nation’s capital to celebrate innovation and entrepreneurship in higher education. The event is held by VentureWell, a national organization cultivating a pipeline of inventors, innovators and entrepreneurs driven to solve the world’s biggest problems and to create lasting impact. Following just three years of participation in VentureWell’s Pathways in Innovation program, JMU received the Curricular Innovation Award, recognizing its innovative engineering program.

Through a partnership established between the National Science Foundation, Stanford University’s Epicenter and VentureWell, the Pathways in Innovation program was formed to help universities better incorporate innovation and entrepreneurship across their respective campuses. JMU’s Engineering Department was invited to join the initiative, and several professors – Kyle Gipson, Justin Henriques, Keith Holland, Robert Nagel and Kurt Paterson – received funding to attend workshops and gain the tools necessary for improving engineering education.

Several changes have already come thanks to JMU’s involvement with this program. Perhaps most significantly, the department redesigned the senior symposium in 2014, now named the Madison Engineering xChange, to include all students in the program so they can share their major project work of the year, learn from their peers, and conceive of new paths toward innovation in the field. Faculty members continue to come up with ideas for events as well, as seen in the Madison Engineering Freshmen Launch event and the Madison Engineering Scholars Café, which both seek to inspire closer relationships between faculty and students.

Due to these and other efforts, JMU arrived at the Open conference and learned it would be honored for curricular innovation. Several faculty members were on hand to accept the award, which was announced during a pre-conference session in the presence of other participants in the Pathways program.

“The award signifies how quickly an effective team can enact change. Through the Pathways to Innovation program, as well as the many other initiatives throughout campus, Madison Engineering is becoming nationally recognized as an institution that prepares students to think creatively and enact innovative solutions to better the world,” Holland said.

The award recipient was chosen by a committee of representatives from VentureWell and Stanford’s Epicenter who made their decision based on nominations from other Pathways teams or institutional supporters from a group’s company or school. After careful deliberation, JMU stood out.

“James Madison University was selected because of the very thoughtful and comprehensive way they approached this endeavor, using the curriculum as a primary vehicle. Student engagement in innovation and entrepreneurship also commences from the moment students arrive on campus, with new student orientation, which is then followed by a suite of offerings for first year students,” said Victoria Matthew, VentureWell’s Program Director for Pathways in Innovation.

“These big awards all start with faculty and students brave enough to dream big and work hard, but it couldn’t be more timely,” notes Engineering Department Head, Kurt Paterson.  “In Fall 2017 we move into completely reimagined spaces that will catalyze our engineering community’s abilities in creativity, innovation, and value creation. Place, people, and programs coming together will position JMU to be an impactful contributor to entrepreneurially-minded engineering for industry, society, and the world.”

With so many changes already underway, it remains to be seen what other positive results come in the future as ripple effects of JMU’s work in the Pathways program.

Published: Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Last Updated: Tuesday, April 4, 2017

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