JMU Engineering joins Keen

Office of the Provost

By Daniel Vieth 

While phrases like “the entrepreneurial spirit” are often associated with business schools, that same mindset can be applicable to a number of fields, including engineering. The Kern Family Foundation recognizes this potential in students and faculty through its Kern Entrepreneurial Engineering Network (KEEN), a coalition of engineering programs from across the nation. JMU recently joined this group as a way to champion the entrepreneurial mindset for its students.

With 28 partnering institutions, KEEN has become a network of hundreds of engineering faculty working together to develop best practices in engineering education. By promoting curiosity, connections and meaningful work, KEEN helps students create personal, economic and societal value. “In our curriculum, students complete eight semesters of engineering projects with real partners and real contributions,” said Engineering Department Head Kurt Paterson. “This aligns perfectly with KEEN’s focus on curiosity, connections and creating value.”

Keen LogoKEEN reviews engineering programs from around the nation and selects those they think would be excellent institutional partners. “KEEN approaches you, not the other way around,” explained Paterson. “They asked me to an interview in March in Portland [Oregon], and later a followup video call, which resulted in an invitation to submit an application proposal to the network.” Paterson, along with Dean of the College of Integrated Science and Engineering (CISE) Bob Kolvoord, then attended KEEN’s Leadership Conference in October. JMU officially joined the partnership in November, becoming the first institution in Virginia to be represented in KEEN.

KEEN’s mission of promoting entrepreneurial mindsets and building value resonates with the JMU engineering program’s culture of making a difference through engineering. “We have found that our most successful students and alumni develop mindsets like those espoused by KEEN’s values through their time in our engineering program,” said Paterson. “Our students seize these demanding engineering opportunities to engage with the world, and benefit their project partners and themselves in the process.”

“This partnership has the potential to be truly significant for our engineering program and JMU,” Paterson continued. “It gives our program some authentic academic peers who are genuinely dedicated to undergraduate engineering education, engineering innovation mindset development, and creating value for society and industry. For JMU, with our engineering faculty as local champions, our partnership with KEEN may yield important opportunities for the campus’ emerging collaborations in creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship.” Five faculty members from JMU Engineering, including Paterson, will be attending the KEEN Annual Conference in January 2017 to set in motion the first of many plans to help Madison Engineers be the change through entrepreneurial thinking.

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Published: Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Last Updated: Thursday, November 2, 2023

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